The Facts: Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, believes the NFL will render its initial decision on Watson’s possible discipline by June or July, and that they’ll want to talk to Watson again beforehand. “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.”
Diehards Line:Hardin also said “we expect they will want to talk to him again” in a continuation of interviews regarding the 24 allegations by massage therapists of sexual misconduct during appointments. Two separate grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal charges, but 22 therapists have civil suits against him, including 20 who accuse him of sexual harassment and two of sexual assault. Hardin said Watson cooperated fully with NFL investigators Lisa Friel and Jennifer Gaffney during three days of questioning Monday through Wednesday in Houston, but the review under terms of the Personal Conduct Policy is ongoing. Once Friel and Gaffney wrap up their investigation, they’ll turn their findings over to former U.S. District Judge Sue L. Robinson, who will determine whether or not to discipline Watson. Sanctions can include a fixed or indefinite suspension, a fine, or a combination of the two, or banishment from the NFL with an opportunity to reapply. Discipline may also include a probationary period with conditions that must be met for reinstatement or continued participation. If Watson appeals the decision, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or his designee can overturn or modify the discipline as they see fit, and their ruling will be final. If Watson is suspended for all or part of the 2022 season, backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett will start in his place. ... Meanwhile, 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.” Hardin said such interviews were anticipated as the civil suits play out and understands they won’t help Watson’s case.