Fri Jul 1 7:23pm ET
By ROB MAADDI
AP Pro Football Writer
Now that Deshaun Watson's disciplinary hearing has concluded, the best solution for the NFL and the quarterback's legal team is to reach a settlement before retired judge Sue Robinson issues a decision.
Watson was accused of sexual misconduct by 24 women and has settled 20 of the civil lawsuits. Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.
A settlement between the NFL and Watson would avoid an appeal that undermines the collectively bargained process with a disciplinary officer and prevents a potential federal court case. The longer the process drags on, the uglier it can get for the league and the QB.
The NFL is insisting on a suspension of at least one year and Watson's team has argued there is no basis for that punishment, four people with knowledge of the case, including two who were present during the hearings, told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because details of the three-day proceedings were not publicly released.
Holding firm leaves little wiggle room for a settlement agreement and both sides are sticking to their strong positions.
Robinson, a former U.S. District Judge who was jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players' Association, will decide whether Watson violated the NFL's personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline - and most importantly, how severe. Both sides believe she will impose a suspension. The question is how many games and whether either side would appeal her decision, putting it back in NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's hands.
When a person familiar with Watson's defense team was asked what would be an acceptable suspension, the person told the AP: ''Our goal is to get him back on the field this year.''
A 6-8 game suspension would fulfill that goal and allow Watson to play for the Cleveland Browns in 2022. So would 10 games, for that matter.
But then the next question is what's acceptable for the NFL. The league is well aware of public perception. Fallout from its decision in the Ray Rice case in 2014 (in which the league increased its suspension only after video of Rice hitting his fiance emerged) led the NFL to vow it would levy harsher penalties in cases involving violence and sexual assault against women.
A person familiar with the hearing told the AP the league believes it presented sufficient evidence to warrant keeping Watson off the field this season. The person said the league's investigation determined Watson committed multiple violations of the personal conduct policy.
If Robinson doesn't impose a suspension suitable to the NFL, the league still has the power to do so on its own. Per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement, Goodell or his designee ''will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final and complete disposition of the dispute,'' if either side appeals.
However, Watson's team could try to challenge a Goodell ruling in federal court.
That's another reason a settlement is the best way to resolve the dispute.
But it's unclear how many games the NFL would view as an acceptable number. The league can continue to insist on a one-year suspension but that's an obstacle to a mutually beneficial settlement.
There are varying opinions within the NFL.
Some league staffers didn't want Watson on the field for OTAs and minicamp after the Browns acquired him in a blockbuster trade with Houston. They want him to express remorse in his actions and willingly seek counseling before it's mandated through the disciplinary process.
But Goodell didn't exercise his right to place Watson on the Commissioner's Exempt list because the league typically uses that designation to prevent players from suiting up for games.
With the NFL and Watson's legal team on opposite ends of the suspension spectrum, and seemingly far apart in any private negotiations, a settlement may not be an option.
In which case, Robinson will make the first call - which may not be the final verdict.
San Francisco 49ers tight end Charlie Woerner (core muscle) was removed from the PUP list on Sunday. The 2020 sixth-round selection out of Georgia had surgery during the offseason. However, he's buried deep on the depth chart, with a big chunk of his workload reserved for the special teams unit. Still, if George Kittle or Tyler Kroft miss time this season, there's a chance Woerner could receive more snaps. But even then, his fantasy expectations will remain low.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (knee) came off the Physically Unable to Perform list, per head coach Matt LaFleur. The rookie had an offseason procedure and hasn't been active throughout training camp thus far. He will be eased back into action, performing individual drills. However, his status for Week 1 remains up in the air. Nevertheless, while Watson figures to see plenty of attention from Aaron Rodgers this season, he will probably need some time to work out any rust caused by his lengthy absence. As a result, he may not be a starting fantasy option early in the season, although he could pick things up as the year progresses.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Christian Watson (knee) will be removed from the Physically Unable to Perform list, per head coach Matt LaFleur. The rookie had an offseason procedure and hasn't been active throughout training camp thus far. He will be eased back into action, performing individual drills. However, his status for Week 1 remains up in the air. Nevertheless, while Watson figures to see plenty of attention from Aaron Rodgers this season, he will probably need some time to work out any rust caused by his lengthy absence. As a result, he may not be a starting fantasy option early in the season, although he could pick things up as the year progresses.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan (knee) came off the PUP list on Sunday to start drilling individually, according to head coach Matt LaFleur. The 28-year-old tore his ACL in Week 8 last season during a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals and wasn't available for the remainder of the year. While it's still not certain if he'll be in uniform for Week 1, he's at least moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, his workload may be limited even if he's good for the season opener. However, Tonyan is a familiar face for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, so he could progressively get more targets and snaps throughout the 2022-23 campaign.
Miami Dolphins cornerback Trill Williams (knee) suffered a torn left ACL during Saturday's preseason matchup against the Buccaneers. He will miss the 2022-23 season. The 22-year-old was forecasted to backup Xavier Howard and Byron Jones (leg). However, Williams had a chance to see more action, at least for a game or two, if Jones wasn't recovered enough from leg surgery to be ready for Week 1. Still, even if the Syracuse alum had remained healthy, he wasn't expected to see any interest from most IDP managers.
Green Bay Packers tight end Robert Tonyan (knee) will come off the PUP list on Monday and start drilling individually, according to head coach Matt LaFleur. The 28-year-old tore his ACL in Week 8 last season during a matchup against the Arizona Cardinals and wasn't available for the remainder of the year. While it's still not certain if he'll be in uniform for Week 1, he's at least moving in the right direction. Nevertheless, his workload may be limited even if he's good for the season opener. However, Tonyan is a familiar face for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, so he could progressively get more targets and snaps throughout the 2022-23 campaign.
Dynasty | Bills rookie receiver Khalil Shakir totaled 92 yards on 5-of-5 receiving Dynasty Analysis: Shakir continues to garner a following from the dynasty community and his production in his first professional game will only accelerate his climb. While not expected to be a starter in week one, Shakir continues to receive high praise in camp and could mix in with the starters in four-wide sets. Found as DLF's rookie WR16, he'll remain a name to watch as training camp rolls on.
Dynasty | Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce rushed for 49 yards on five carries Dynasty Analysis: Pierce looked the part of no less than an early-down starter on his five totes, one of them being a 20-yard scamper. The running back position is somewhat of a wide open proposition for the Texans in 2022 with Marlon Mack and veteran Rex Burkhead expected to lead the way. Given Pierces profile and youth, however, it will be no surprise to see the rookie garner starter's touches by mid-season. Pierce is listed as DLF's rookie RB5 and our RB39 overall.
Dynasty | Chargers rookie running back Isaiah Spiller rushed for 34 yards on 10 carries Dynasty Analysis: He also caught his lone target for 10 yards. Spiller is locked in a battle for the backup role behind Austin Ekeler but still looks to be behind Joshua Kelley at this juncture. As DLF's rookie RB7, there's little question the 21-year-old has starting upside but his drafted situation in L.A. will require patience from his dynasty coaches. It's a long training camp and general belief is that it will be Spiller backing up Ekeler by the end of the season, but without injury above him on the depth chart, there's little runway for material production in 2022.
Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith isn't overly concerned about Drake London (knee) missing a substantial amount of time. The rookie didn't practice on Sunday after injuring his knee during Friday's preseason matchup against the Detroit Lions. Fortunately, the injury isn't considered serious. While Smith hasn't specified how long London is expected to be out, there's a chance he could be ready for Week 1. Still, until there is a definitive update, fantasy managers can consider playing it safe by looking for another fantasy wideout in drafts heading into the start of the regular season.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Jalen Guyton hauled in both his targets for six yards during Saturday's 29-22 preseason loss to Los Angeles Rams. Guyton is battling with teammate Joshua Palmer to earn a starting role in this electrifying offense. Guyton possesses elite speed but will need to do more with his talent to earn consideration from the coaching staff. His skill set pairs well with the big arm of Justin Herbert, which could produce some big plays and spike weeks for fantasy managers if he can become more involved.
Washington Commanders wide receiver Terry McLaurin had one reception for 17 yards in the preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers. McLaurin's lone reception was the longest completion for Carson Wentz on a day where the signal-caller was pretty efficient. The 26-year-old is entering his fourth season with what most would say is the best quarterback of his career so far. If the two can build a strong connection, new statistical heights may be in the cards for the talented wideout. While McLaurin is currently a high-end WR2, he certainly has WR1 upside.
Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell passed for 145 yards while completing nine of his 16 attempts during the preseason loss to Carolina. He also added three carries for 19 yards and two touchdowns. Howell saw no action for the entire first half but took over for most of the second. The fifth-round rookie did his best to make the game close as he led two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, resulting in two rushing touchdowns for himself. As a player projected to be a first-round pick at one point, Howell has a shot at taking over the backup quarterback job from Taylor Heinicke before the start of the season. If his impressive play continues, his fantasy stock could be on the rise as an insurance policy for Carson Wentz in deep Superflex leagues.
Washington Commanders running back Brian Robinson carried the ball six times for 26 yards and one touchdown during Saturday's preseason loss to Carolina. He also added two receptions for 15 yards. The 23-year-old rookie started the day behind Antonio Gibson but quickly saw work due to Gibson's struggles with ball security. Robinson took full advantage of his opportunity by gaining 10 yards on his first carry and then nine yards on his first reception. The former Alabama running back is still expected to be listed behind Gibson on the depth chart, but there may be some consideration for a more prominent role if he continues to perform well throughout the preseason.
Washington Commanders running back Antonio Gibson carried the ball four times for two yards along with one reception for two yards in Saturday's loss to the Carolina Panthers. The 24-year-old had a rough start as his second carry resulted in a fumble, leading to him being quickly replaced by Brian Robinson. Gibson's ball security is still an issue, and the coaching staff seems to feel comfortable with what they have in Robinson. There's still time for the third-year back to regain trust, but he may be on his way to losing touches in this backfield. Be cautious when considering him during drafts.
Washington Commanders wide receiver Curtis Samuel saw two targets in Washington's loss to the Carolina Panthers. The former Buckeye was the recipient of Carson Wentz's first pass of the game, racking up six yards before converting on third down off an eight-yard reception. His 14 total yards weren't much, but it was encouraging to see the 26-year-old back on the field after an injury-riddled 2021. With Samuel also getting work with the first team, he could be a nice speculative pick late in drafts heading into the season.
Miami Dolphins QB Teddy Bridgewater (back) did not play in preseason Week 1 because of back tightness, according to head coach Mike McDaniel on Sunday, Aug. 14. The injury isn't thought to be serious, though.
Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Joshua Palmer failed to record a catch despite receiving four targets during Saturday's 29-22 preseason loss to Los Angeles Rams. The sophomore receiver had a decent stretch at the end of last year, producing 15 receptions for 185 yards and three touchdowns in their final five games. Palmer has also received plenty of praise during training camp and currently projects to be the third option behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, which should be a meaningful role for fantasy managers. That said, Palmer will need to do more in his next game to ensure Jalen Guyton doesn't steal work and give the Chargers' coaching staff a reason to take him off the field.
Los Angeles Chargers backup quarterback Chase Daniel completed 11 of his 17 pass attempts for 117 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions during Saturday's 29-22 preseason loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Daniel was in command of an offense that was missing most of its starters. His touchdown throws included an accurate 41-yard strike to wide receiver Joe Reed and a short three-yard dump-off that receiver Michael Bandy took the remaining thirteen yards to the house. While he doesn't figure to see any regular season action, barring injury, it's beneficial to know that he could sustain the fantasy value of the Chargers' superstars, at least temporarily, should anything happen to Justin Herbert.
Los Angeles Chargers rookie running back Isaiah Spiller rushed the ball 10 times for 34 yards while adding one reception for 10 yards during Saturday's 29-22 preseason loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Spiller dropped to 123rd overall in the draft, largely because of his poor performance at the combine, but he could flourish in this high-octane offense if he can cede work from Austin Ekeler. However, before this becomes a possibility, he'll need to fend off Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree III. It was promising to see Spiller receive a target, but his inefficiency on the ground will need to improve to make an impact for fantasy managers this year.