The wait for Deshaun Watson’s suspension is over. Sue L. Robinson, the former judge jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association to determine discipline for the embattled Browns quarterback, revealed Monday that she is recommending a six-game ban for the former Texans star. Acquired by Cleveland this offseason while facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct, Watson could have his suspension lengthened if the NFL appeals Robinson’s ruling and levies a harsher punishment.
For now, however, the Pro Bowl signal-caller is set to miss just over a quarter of his first season in Cleveland. How does his six-game suspension stack up against other major NFL discipline in recent history?
The league’s new standards for suspensions were only implemented in 2014, in response to the infamous Ray Rice case, when the league unsuccessfully attempted to enact a second, indefinite suspension on the ex-Ravens running back once video surfaced of the player’s assault, which had previously been punished with a mere two-game ban. The largest updates to the NFL’s personal conduct policy previously came in 2007. Here’s a look at some of the most notable suspensions issued to starters or other prominent players since then, specific to the personal conduct policy (which Watson violated):
Note: Suspensions for violations of the NFL’s personal conduct policy differ from suspensions for in-game rules violations, such as unnecessary roughness or fighting; as well as team-imposed suspensions and bans related to the integrity of the game (i.e. Calvin Ridley’s 2022 ban for gambling, or Tom Brady’s 2018 suspension for his alleged role in Deflategate).
|2022||QB Deshaun Watson||Browns||6||Alleged sexual misconduct (no charges)|
|Free agent (Washington)||
|Assault, battery (charges dropped)
|Burglary, battery charges|
|2019||RB Kareem Hunt||Browns||8||Assault incident (no charges)
|2019||DT Jarran Reed||Seahawks||6||Alleged assault (no charges)|
|2019||OG Richie Incognito||Raiders||2||Disorderly conduct charge|
|2018||LB Mychal Kendricks||Seahawks||8||Insider trading charges|
|2018||QB Jameis Winston||Buccaneers||3||Alleged sexual assault (no charges)|
|2018||DE Dante Fowler Jr.||Jaguars||1||Simple battery charge|
|2018||CB Jimmy Smith||Ravens||4||Alleged domestic violence (no charges)|
|2018||LB Nigel Bradham||Eagles||1||Alleged assault (no charges)|
|2017||RB Ezekiel Elliott||Cowboys||6||Alleged assault, domestic violence (no charges)|
|2017||K Josh Brown||Free agent||6||Domestic violence (charges dropped)|
|2017||CB Adam “Pacman” Jones||Bengals||1||Assault (charges reduced)|
|2016||DL Sheldon Richardson||Jets||1||Speeding charge
|2016||K Josh Brown||Giants||1||Domestic violence (charges dropped)|
|2015||S T.J. Ward||Broncos||1||Assault (charges reduced)|
|2015||OLB Aldon Smith||Raiders||Indefinite (reinstated 2020)||DUI, hit-and-run, vandalism charges|
|2015||DE Greg Hardy||Cowboys||4 (reduced from 10)||Assault (charges dropped)|
|2014||DE Aldon Smith||49ers||9||Weapons charges, other incidents|
|2014||LB Daryl Washington||Cardinals||Indefinite (reinstated 2017)||Aggravated assault charges, drug use|
|2014||RB Adrian Peterson||Vikings||Indefinite (reinstated 2015)||Misdemeanor child abuse charges|
|2014||RB Ray Rice||Ravens||2||Aggravated assault (charges dropped)|
|2010||QB Ben Roethlisberger||Steelers||4 (reduced from 6)||Alleged sexual assault (no charges)|
|2010||WR Vincent Jackson||Chargers||3||DUI charges|
|2010||CB Aqib Talib||Buccaneers
|2009||RB Marshawn Lynch||Bills||3||Weapons charge
|2008||CB Adam “Pacman” Jones||Cowboys||4||Alleged altercation (no charges)|
|2008||OT Bryant McKinnie||Vikings||4||Aggravated battery charges|
|2008||WR Brandon Marshall||Broncos||1 (reduced from 3)||Alleged domestic violence, DUI (no charges)|
|2007||QB Michael Vick||Falcons||Indefinite (reinstated 2009, after 2 games)||Felony dogfighting charges|
|2007||DT Tank Johnson||Bears||8||Weapons charges|
|2007||WR Chris Henry||Bengals||8||Weapons charges, other incidents|
|2007||CB Adam “Pacman” Jones||Titans||16||Alleged assault (reduced charges)|
Including Watson, incidents of alleged sexual assault or misconduct involving QBs has produced relatively mild suspensions (see: Ben Roethlisberger and Jameis Winston drawing a combined seven-game ban). With Watson, the difference was literally two dozen different women alleging a pattern of abuse. Roethlisberger and Winston, it should be noted, also avoided formal charges relating to their respective cases.
Despite the NFL reportedly seeking at least a one-year ban for Watson, however, Robinson’s ruling determined that there was not sufficient evidence to impose an indefinite suspension. She argued, per NFL Media, that the QB engaged in a “pattern of non-violent sexual conduct” during private massage therapy sessions.