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Deshaun Watson New 11-Game Suspension: Fair Compared To Patriots 'Deflategate'?

With the Cleveland Browns quarterback now missing 11 games, New England will face former teammate Jacoby Brissett instead of Watson in Week 6 at Cleveland.

In 2016, the New England Patriots were punished for allegedly deflating footballs. Their penalty: A four-game suspension of quarterback Tom Brady, the loss of first- and fourth-round draft picks, and $1 million fine.

In 2022, Deshaun Watson has been punished for allegedly sexually assaulting 25 female massage therapists. His penalty: Initially a six-game suspension (with no fine), which was appealed by the NFL and on Thursday upgraded to 11 games (with a $5 million fine).

Let the comparisons - and complaining? - commence.

Obviously there are no "winners" in an ugly case that affected so many victims. But Patriots fans - who initially had disdain for a relatively harsher sentence for deflating footballs than for assaulting women - can now take solace in Watson's enhanced punishment.

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As part of Watson's new 11-game suspension, he will have to miss the Oct. 16 game in Cleveland against the Patriots. That means in Week 6 New England will not have to face the 2020 NFL passing leader, but rather former teammate Jacoby Brissett as the Browns' quarterback.

The ruling comes after an exhaustive investigation into Watson's case, in which 25 women filed civil lawsuits against him starting in March 2021. Watson agreed to settle 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits in June and reportedly reached deals with three more earlier this month.

The star quarterback, traded from Houston to Cleveland last Spring, has repeatedly denied all allegations against him. Though he is settling cases and offering apologies, after Thursday's announcement of his new punishment Watson reiterated his innocence.

In addition to the $5 million fine, Watson will lose $632,500 in salary this season based on the 11-game suspension. The fine equates to 2.2 percent of his record $230 million guaranteed contract.

For individual precedent, Watson’s six-game suspension mirrors past penalties for Dallas Cowboys' running back Ezekiel Elliott and ex-Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Watson’s case — like Elliott’s and Roethlisberger’s — lacked criminal charges.