SUSPENSION LOOMING?

Just when you thought you could predict Deshaun Watson’s fate, consider this

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could lower the boom on Watson. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The other afternoon I was driving (5 mph stop and start) on I-45, listening to the radio and the sports talk host posed this question to his listeners:

Which will happen first – the baseball lockout ends or the Texans announce a Deshaun Watson trade?

Seriously? There will be a baseball season this year. There may not be a football season for Deshaun Watson in 2022.

What has happened, is there any indication, what makes anybody think that the Texans will find a trade partner for Deshaun Watson anytime soon?

Much like rush hour drivers on Houston highways, it’s time for the media to slam the brakes on Deshaun Watson trade talk. Right now all the Watson noise is just the media talking among themselves.

This week’s rumor has the Washington Commanders offering a slew of first-round picks for Watson. Add them to the Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and more unnamed mystery teams linked to courting Watson.

And yet here the Texans still sit with an albatross holding a $156 million contract who has no desire to play for the Texans and the Texans have even less interest in playing him. It’s an unbelievable situation, until you remember we’re talking about the Houston Texans.

Deshaun Watson has become the one thing he’s never been – boring. Why have the Texans been unable to unload their exquisitely talented young quarterback? Think maybe it’s because Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits and the possibility of criminal charges alleging sexual misconduct? While the Harris County district attorney is expected to decide whether to file criminal charges before April 1, all those civil cases could loom for months or who knows how long?

It’s important to remember that Watson denies all the accusations and this is America, he’s presumed innocent. As his lawyer Rusty Hardin repeatedly says, “Deshaun Watson did not do what he is accused of doing.”

It may not matter how Watson’s legal situation turns out. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could lower the boom on Watson with a suspension based only on his personal disgust over Watson’s alleged misbehavior with nearly two dozen masseuses.

Goodell’s done it before. In 2010 Pittsburgh Steelers superstar quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was accused of sexually assaulting a female college student in a bar in Milledgeville, GA. Prosecutors investigated the accusation, did not find enough evidence to file charges, and the case was dropped. Goodell suspended Roethlisberger six games anyway.

Goodell wrote a letter to Roethlisberger explaining his decision. “I recognize that the allegations in Georgia were disputed and that they did not result in criminal charges being filed against you … that said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”

I know a legal eagle who is a close follower of the Watson case. He believes that Watson will be suspended for “some, most or all of next season.” And “some” is about to leave town.

Goodell might be of mind to deal harshly with Watson, especially after being criticized for meting out mild punishment in past cases of violence against women. Ray Rice initially received only a two-game suspension for punching his fiancé, rendering her unconscious and dragging her body out of an elevator in 2014. Kareem Hunt missed only eight games for pushing and kicking a woman in 2018. No charges were filed against Hunt. The NFL suspended him for violating the Personal Conduct Policy.

This week Goodell suspended Atlanta Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley an entire season – for starters – for betting on NFL games. While gambling on football is legal, and the NFL is in bed with gambling sites, it is strictly against the rules for NFL players.

Goodell might be wary of appearing to punish a player more severely for gambling than a player accused of assaulting women.

The Athletic football writer Jeff Howe has it right: "Until Watson's legal situation is resolved, teams remain unwilling to pursue a trade for the Texans quarterback. ... Teams haven't shown any urgency to pursue a trade this offseason while his legal situation is still up in the air."

While April 1 is when Watson may find out whether he faces criminal charges, there are other dates affecting where, when and if he’ll play football next season. NFL free agency starts March 16 and the NFL draft begins on April 28. That’s when teams pretty much plot their plans and rosters set for next season.

Last week, Washington head coach Ron Rivera responded to rumors that the Commanders were pursuing a trade for Watson. He told CBS Sports: “I think in certain situations, clarity and some sort of resolution is probably better for all these things because we don’t know who’s available and we don’t know what the circumstances are.”

Clarity and resolution are nowhere to be found in Deshaun Watson’s world these days.

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This week, we react to Laremy Tunsil's absence from Houston Texans OTAs and wonder if he really loves football or if he just loves what football provides him. Tunsil was given more money in the off-season after reworking his contract, and this is coming off a season when Tunsil was only supposed to miss four or five games after suffering a thumb injury in October. But Tunsil missed the rest of the season, which had many fans and media scratching their heads.

Finally, because of Tunsil's apparent disinterest in being with the team, it might be time for the Texans to trade Tunsil, and get something in return before likely cutting him next off-season.

Check out the video to watch the full conversation.

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