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Divide intensifies in league office over handling of Deshaun Watson

Deshaun Watson says he's had direct communication with the NFL, but there's still no information on how the league will discipline the Browns QB.

Even before recent developments gave the Deshaun Watson case a more ominous feel, some in the league office believed that Watson should not play until the pending litigation has ended. However, Commissioner Roger Goodell took the possibility of paid leave off the table in March.

Starting with the feature that debuted 23 days ago on HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the situation has gotten worse for Watson, with two more lawsuits filed, two more expected, and possibly more to come. As one source with the dynamics of the situation explained it to PFT on Thursday, the league is very concerned about the drip, drip, drip of more cases being filed.

The new cases, the looming cases, and the possibility for even more cases, coupled with the HBO story and the recent article from Jenny Vrentas of the New York Times, have given more credibility to those in the league office who want Watson to be sidelined until the litigation has completely ended.

It’s unclear how this split will be resolved, and it will be difficult for the league to make a full and final decision regarding potential discipline without knowing how many cases will be filed. Through it all, the league has to balance the potential consequences of going too far with the possible fallout from not going far enough. And it was a failure to go far enough with Ray Rice in 2014 that nearly brought down the house.

Whatever the Commissioner does, he won’t put himself in position to be criticized again for going too easily on a player accused of misconduct against a woman. Or 26 women. And counting.