Why Stephen Ross’ suspension is one day longer than Deshaun Watson’s

·3 min read

Well, it’s been a busy week for the NFL, and we haven’t even gotten to Thursday’s Hall of Fame game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Las Vegas Raiders. On Monday, former federal judge Sue L. Robinson levied a six-game suspension against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson related to multiple accusations of sexual assault. The decision satisfied almost nobody for all kinds of reasons (we were especially gobsmaeked by Judge Robinson’s definition of “non-violent sexual conduct), but that’s something the NFL can appeal if it so chooses.

A little more than 24 hours later, the six-month investigation into the Miami Dolphins’ alleged tampering with both Tom Brady and Sean Payton, and whether Dolphins owner Stephen Ross exhorted his then-head coach Brian Flores to intentionally lose games for more favorable draft picks, came to a conclusion.

Former U.S. Attorney and SEC Chair Mary Jo White and, a team of lawyers from the Debevoise law firm, deduced that the team indeed had impermissible contact with both Brady and Payton, through there was no reported proof of any “tanking.” The investigation did not go into Flores’ accusations of racist hiring practices, most likely because Flores’ lawsuit is still live.

In any event, the Dolphins didn’t just lose their 2023 first-round pick and 2024 third-round pick in the fallout. Ross was also suspended until October 17, 2022. Per the league, Ross “may not be present at the Dolphins’ facility and may not represent the club at any team or NFL event. He may not attend any League meeting prior to the Annual Meeting in 2023, is removed from all League committees indefinitely, and fined $1.5 million.”

What’s interesting about the timing of these two suspensions is that Ross’ is exactly one day longer than Watson’s. Watson’s six-game suspension closes after the Browns play the New England Patriots (oh, sweet scandal irony) on Sunday, October, 16.

The NFL may get a lot of things wrong, but it rarely does things without a point. In this case, it could be that punishing Ross in this specific manner, and making note of the “unprecedented scope” of the tampering, sets the league up to go after a longer suspension of Watson on appeal, due to the unprecedented number of Watson’s alleged violations against the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy. In her ruling, Judge Robinson spoke quite a bit to precedent, and more specifically, to “standards of fairness and consistency of treatment among players similarly situated.”

Thus, the six-game suspension, when the sheer number of Watson’s alleged violations would seem to engender a much more severe punishment. We know that the NFL wanted Watson suspended for at least the entire 2022 season, with conditions to his reinstatement in 2023. In settlement talks with the NFLPA, the league was willing to go as low as 12 games.

In the end, Watson’s representatives chose to bet on the ruling of an independent arbiter, and at first glance, they bet right. But the Ross suspension could well lead to the NFL’s right and ability to step into legal definitions of “unprecedented” that could lead to a much longer Watson suspension.

Stay tuned to see what comes of that. In the meantime, it’s been a week, NFL — and it’s only Tuesday.

Story originally appeared on Touchdown Wire