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NFL insists on indefinite suspension for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson

Three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson agreed to settle 20 of 24 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct, but he’s still facing a significant penalty.Ron Schwane/Associated Press

The NFL insisted on an indefinite suspension while Deshaun Watson’s legal team argued there’s no basis for that punishment as both sides presented their cases in front of a retired judge in Delaware on Tuesday, two people in attendance told the Associated Press.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday and Watson is scheduled to be there for the duration, according to one person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the hearing isn’t public.

Former US District Judge Sue Robinson, who was jointly appointed by the league and the Players Association, will determine whether Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy and whether to impose discipline.

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Watson agreed to settle 20 of 24 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct, but the league is seeking at least a one-year suspension, one of the people told the AP. Watson’s side, led by renowned attorneys Jeffrey Kessler and Rusty Hardin, wants the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback to play this season for the Browns.

Two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict Watson on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.

Watson has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name.

What's next for Deshaun Watson?David Richard/Associated Press

This is the first hearing for Robinson, who was the first woman Chief Judge for the District of Delaware. Previously, commissioner Roger Goodell had the authority to impose discipline for violations of the personal conduct policy.

Still, Goodell holds considerable power. If either the union or league appeals Robinson’s decision, Goodell or his designee “will issue a written decision that will constitute full, final, and complete disposition of the dispute,” per terms of Article 46 in the collective bargaining agreement.

That means Goodell could ultimately overrule Robinson’s decision and give Watson one year or even an indefinite suspension because of the potential for more cases.

The NFL has punished several players for violating the league’s personal conduct policy without criminal charges. In 2010, Ben Roethlisberger received a six-game suspension after being accused of sexual assault by two women. Goodell later reduced the suspension to four games. Ezekiel Elliott got six games in 2017 for domestic violence incidents.

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On Monday, a woman who previously sued Watson filed a lawsuit against the Texans, alleging his former team provided him with resources to enable his actions and “turned a blind eye” to his behavior.

It’s unknown how long it will take Robinson to make a decision, but the Browns should know Watson’s availability before training camp. NFL discipline typically begins the week leading into the first regular-season game, so Watson would be eligible for camp unless a potential punishment stipulates otherwise.

The Browns traded a slew of draft picks to acquire Watson and gave him a five-year, $230 million guaranteed contract in March.

Mayfield ‘ready to move on’

Baker Mayfield said the Browns have work ahead if they want him to help them through their situation with Watson.

Mayfield, speaking at his football camp near the University of Oklahoma’s campus on Tuesday, didn’t entirely close the door on stepping in if needed.

“No, I think for that to happen, there would have to be some reaching out,” Mayfield said. “But we’re ready to move on, I think, on both sides.”

It appears that Baker Mayfield's time in Cleveland is coming to an end.Don Wright/Associated Press

Mayfield said he expected to be traded before the draft, but he’s still on the team roughly a month before the opening of training camps.

“I think I got frustrated with it not happening before minicamp and all those things, but it’s just the stuff that’s out of my control,” he said. “And so, you know, let those things happen and fall in place.”

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Mayfield said he’s been working out with veteran receivers Danny Amendola and Cole Beasley, and some others from the area near Lake Travis in Texas. He said that work gets his mind off the situation.

“Obviously if I was focused on not having a team and not being able to [prepare with a team], it’d be pretty miserable,” he said. “But I’m just working on getting better for myself. And then whenever this all happens, then learn a playbook and get the guys down as soon as possible.”

McLaurin rewarded

Terry McLaurin and the Commanders hammered out a new contract for the star receiver, ending the team’s biggest football-related saga of a tumultuous offseason a month before training camp begins.

McLaurin agreed to terms on a three-year contract, according to two people with knowledge of the move who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Tuesday because the deal had not been announced.

One person confirmed the new deal is worth up to $71 million with roughly $53 million guaranteed, including a $28 million signing bonus. According to Spotrac, a website that tracks contracts, it’s the highest signing bonus for a receiver, slightly more than the $27.5 million DeAndre Hopkins got from the Cardinals in 2020.

Terry McLaurin has plenty of reasons to smile after landing a new deal in Washington.Adam Hunger/Associated Press

McLaurin, who turns 27 in September, had one year left on his rookie contract and skipped offseason workouts while negotiations were ongoing. Coach Ron Rivera expressed confidence about a deal getting done throughout those workouts despite McLaurin’s absence.

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“It is never contentious,” Rivera said recently about negotiations with McLaurin’s camp. “I can promise you that much. So, we’re feeling pretty good and pretty confident at some point, this will get done.”

A third-round pick in 2019, McLaurin has become Washington’s best player since breaking into the NFL three years ago. The Ohio State product has 222 catches for 3,090 yards and 16 touchdowns in 46 regular-season games — while playing with eight different quarterbacks.

“Terry’s a guy that you want to build a team around,” defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said last month. “He represents everything we want to build here.”