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

Mon, Aug 1, 2022
NFL News (AP)

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

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).

SeasonPlayerTeamLength (Games)Reason
2022QB Deshaun WatsonBrowns6Alleged sexual misconduct (no charges)


RB Derrius Guice

Free agent (Washington)


Assault, battery (charges dropped)


WR Antonio Brown

Free agent


Burglary, battery charges
2019RB Kareem HuntBrowns8Assault incident (no charges)
2019DT Jarran ReedSeahawks6Alleged assault (no charges)
2019OG Richie IncognitoRaiders2Disorderly conduct charge
2018LB Mychal KendricksSeahawks8Insider trading charges
2018QB Jameis WinstonBuccaneers3Alleged sexual assault (no charges)
2018DE Dante Fowler Jr.Jaguars1Simple battery charge
2018CB Jimmy SmithRavens4Alleged domestic violence (no charges)
2018LB Nigel BradhamEagles1Alleged assault (no charges)
2017RB Ezekiel ElliottCowboys6Alleged assault, domestic violence (no charges)
2017K Josh BrownFree agent6Domestic violence (charges dropped)
2017CB Adam "Pacman" JonesBengals1Assault (charges reduced)
2016DL Sheldon RichardsonJets1Speeding charge
2016K Josh BrownGiants1Domestic violence (charges dropped)
2015S T.J. WardBroncos1Assault (charges reduced)
2015OLB Aldon SmithRaidersIndefinite (reinstated 2020)DUI, hit-and-run, vandalism charges
2015DE Greg HardyCowboys4 (reduced from 10)Assault (charges dropped)
2014DE Aldon Smith49ers9Weapons charges, other incidents
2014LB Daryl WashingtonCardinalsIndefinite (reinstated 2017)Aggravated assault charges, drug use
2014RB Adrian PetersonVikingsIndefinite (reinstated 2015)Misdemeanor child abuse charges
2014RB Ray RiceRavens2Aggravated assault (charges dropped)
2010QB Ben RoethlisbergerSteelers4 (reduced from 6)Alleged sexual assault (no charges)
2010WR Vincent JacksonChargers3DUI charges
2010CB Aqib TalibBuccaneers
1Assault charge
2009RB Marshawn LynchBills3Weapons charge
2008CB Adam "Pacman" JonesCowboys4Alleged altercation (no charges)
2008OT Bryant McKinnieVikings4Aggravated battery charges
2008WR Brandon MarshallBroncos1 (reduced from 3)Alleged domestic violence, DUI (no charges)
2007QB Michael VickFalconsIndefinite (reinstated 2009, after 2 games)Felony dogfighting charges
2007DT Tank JohnsonBears8Weapons charges
2007WR Chris HenryBengals8Weapons charges, other incidents
2007CB Adam "Pacman" JonesTitans16Alleged 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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