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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Deshaun Watson will make his Cleveland Browns debut this Sunday against his former team at NRG Stadium. Watson has completed his suspension from the NFL for alleged sexual misconduct with dozens of massage therapists, and this Sunday will be the first game he has played in 700 days.

The Browns sit at 4-7 hoping Watson will be the spark the team needs to stack some wins and get into the Wild Card race. The Texans are still searching for their second win of the season, and many believe the team will be hiring another head coach come January.

With this in mind, who has the worst reputation? The Texans or Deshaun Watson?

It seems like an easy answer with Watson's legal troubles, but upon further review, the answer has to be the Texans. The Texans have hired two consecutive coaches that no other NFL team even interviewed. It seems like no quality candidates have any interest in coaching the Texans. Watson, however, had teams lining up for his services when the Texans decided to trade him.

Be sure to check out the video above as we dive into this topic and make a convincing case, as crazy as it sounds, that Watson is perceived to have a better reputation.

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