Deshaun Watson is under criminal investigation after facing allegations of sexual assault, which has left his NFL status on hold. Many expected him to be suspended or placed on the commissioner’s exempt list, but Watson continues to prepare for the regular season. Is it possible that he can remain eligible all year round?
As Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports noted Over the weekend, the fact that Watson is the target of a criminal investigation may actually work in his favor for NFL eligibility. Watson’s attorney Rusty Hardin confirmed this week that the NFL has yet to interview Watson about the allegations against him. It’s because the NFL doesn’t want to stand in the way of law enforcement.
“If you talk to a prosecutor or an investigator, they don’t want the NFL out there, quite frankly, laughs at their case,” Hardin told reporters Wednesday. “And the NFL recognizes it. NFL investigators are former prosecutors. They understand this process. So in due course we’ll be interfacing with the NFL, but not yet. “
While Roger Goodell has the power to place Watson on the commissioner’s bye list at any time, he may want to hear from the quarterback and others involved in the situation before doing so. Watson and at least one of the reported victims are reportedly investigated by the FBISo Goodell may think he can’t make an informed decision until the legislation is clearer.
As Robinson explained, Antonio Brown was placed on the commissioner’s exemption list, but was never the subject of a criminal investigation. Other players like Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy had already been charged. This is not the case with Watson, and it is not known how quickly or slowly the matter will progress.
“The NFL regularly tries not to contact the accused and his lawyers and ask them for evidence until the criminal investigation is complete,” Hardin added. “Historically, they want to make sure they don’t interfere with the criminal investigation. When the criminal investigation is complete, they will do their own separate finish. “
Watson is currently the subject of a grand jury inquiry in Texas, although Hardin played it down this week. The Texans might even be hoping something happens with the affair, as Watson recently criticized the media (video here) and was a distraction at training camp. But until that happens, it may just be like nothing has happened to his eligibility.