It was widely believed that the delay in trying the lawsuits in court would lead to a delay in punishment for Watson being handed down from the NFL in the form of a suspension, but now that does not appear to be the case. Watson met with the NFL for three days last week in Houston, a telltale sign that the league may be winding down their investigation, as they typically interview the subject of an investigation last.
In an interview with Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, Hardin addressed the NFL's pending decision on Watson and gave what he sees as a general timeline for the league's determination:
“We should know what their position is initially sometime in June, and then everybody will figure out if there’s going to be a hearing about it or can people work things out, or whatever,” Hardin told cleveland.com by phone on Friday evening. “The only thing that’s certain is that they want to try to get everything done this summer — and earlier than later in the summer. Past that, we don’t really have any firm dates or possibilities.”For Houston Texan fans wondering why these developments should be important to them, considering Watson is no longer a Texan, I will remind them that the Texans do have the Browns' first round picks in the next TWO drafts, so the worse the Browns do, the better a pick the Texans receive.
That the league appears to be arriving at some sort of decision in the coming weeks is a good thing for the Texans, as I believe that Watson will be suspended, and depending on how compelling his accusers were in interviews with NFL investigator Lisa Friel, it could be a long suspension. This just in — 22 accusers is a LOT of accusers.
While the civil lawsuits have evidence thresholds for Watson to be found liable of the accusations, the NFL's threshold for punishment is far more nebulous, and is very intertwined with public perception. The league has gotten blistered by critics in the past when they've gone too lightly on players behaving badly, so they will likely err to the side of being more stern in a high profile case like Watson's.
To that end, the court of public perception is about to get a jolt on Tuesday night on HBO, as Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel will include a feature on several of Watson's accusers, in which they talk publicly for the first time about their experience servicing the Browns' quarterback. Hardin was not very enthusiastic about this development in his interview with Cabot:
Hardin is bracing himself for Tuesday night’s episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, during which Soledad O’Brien interviewed several of Watson’s accusers.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like, but I’m not optimistic,” he said. “I believe they’ll air the accusations of the women without attempting to look behind it to see what kind of merit do they have.”
According to HBO’s press release, the accusers, conducting their first-ever national interviews, spoke with O’Brien about the alleged sexual misconduct they say they experienced, as well as Watson’s fully-guaranteed $230 million contract with the Browns.
If any of this controversy swirling around Watson is affecting him psychologically at all, he is not showing it. After meeting with the NFL in Houston, he met up with 30 of his Browns teammates in the Bahamas on Thursday for a little fun in the sun on his dime.
Not a care in the world, it would appear!
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