Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Deshaun Watson suspended: How Browns QB’s ban compares to other major NFL discipline over the last 15 years

Deshaun Watson suspended: How Browns QB's ban compares to other major NFL discipline over the last 15 years

A look at how Watson’s suspension sizes up against other notable ones


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)


RB Derrius Guice

Free agent (Washington)


Assault, battery (charges dropped)


WR Antonio Brown

Free agent


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

1 Assault charge
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.

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