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An NFLPA lawsuit on behalf of Deshaun Watson likely wouldn’t impact first six games of season

Mike Florio and Chris Simms think the NFL has invited more criticism after Judge Sue L. Robinson decided to suspend Deshaun Watson for six games.

Although both Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliott lost their legal wars against the NFL, both secured important initial victories. They were permitted to keep playing while the lawsuits challenging their suspensions proceeded.

This experience has caused many to assume that, if the NFL Players Association files a lawsuit on behalf of Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson after (as expected) the NFL dramatically increases the six-game suspension imposed on Watson by Judge Sue L. Robinson, Watson will be available for the regular-season opener at Carolina, and all other games until his case is resolved. That’s unlikely to happen here, for two reasons.

First, unless the NFLPA files by Thursday an appeal of the six-game suspension, the six games become a given. The question becomes whether Watson will be able to play as of Week Seven, at Baltimore. Neither the Brady nor Elliott cases included the wrinkle that Watson presents, with the player not fighting an existing suspension, but objecting to something longer than that.

Second, a court order allowing a player to play while litigation proceeds is not easy to get. The judge looks at various factors, including the likelihood that the player will prevail on the merits of his case. If the NFL files the first lawsuit (more on that in a separate post) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York before the NFLPA sues in a forum that would be more inclined to be favorable to Watson, the controlling precedent (thanks to the Brady and Watson cases) will bolster the argument that Watson is likely to lose his case.

Remember, judges like it when private parties create their own system for resolving disputes. Judges, who aren’t paid by the hour or by the case, prefer not to get involved. The NFL and NFLPA have created a system for imposing and resolving discipline under the Personal Conduct Policy. Barring evidence that the NFL in some significant way deviated from the agreed-to terms, the case really should end with the NFL’s appeal ruling.