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NFL’s investigation of Deshaun Watson is nearly complete, Roger Goodell says

Rooney Rule expanded to quarterbacks coaches; league tweaks interview rules

Deshaun Watson was traded to the Browns in March. (Ron Schwane/AP)
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ATLANTA — The NFL is nearing the completion of its investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct made against Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday.

Goodell did not provide a timetable for a resolution of the case. Watson faces potential discipline from the NFL under its personal conduct policy.

“I think we’re nearing the end of the investigative period,” Goodell said at the conclusion of the spring owners meeting. “And then at some point, as you know, this will be handled by our disciplinary officer. And that will happen, hopefully, shortly. And then we’ll see where that comes out.”

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Watson met with NFL representatives last week as part of the league’s investigation. He has not been charged with a crime but faces accusations by women made in 22 active civil lawsuits. Watson has denied the allegations.

Under its personal conduct policy, the NFL will submit its findings to a disciplinary officer jointly appointed by the league and the NFL Players Association. That officer will make the initial ruling on discipline. Either side can then appeal to Goodell.

Goodell spoke at a news conference after the owners met Tuesday at an Atlanta hotel. They had participated Monday in a diversity seminar with minority coaches and front-office executives. That seminar concluded Tuesday.

“It’s been a learning experience both ways,” Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said.

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Rooney Rule tweaks

The league announced a new diversity measure Tuesday, saying the Rooney Rule will apply to the quarterbacks coach position. Any team with a vacancy at that spot must comply with minority interview requirements.

That follows a measure enacted in March by which each NFL team will be required to have a minority assistant coach in a significant role on its offensive staff. League leaders have spoken of the need to develop minority head coaching candidates through key positions on the offensive side, such as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

The NFL also announced the establishment of a program to promote diversity among team physicians and athletic trainers. The league said it would partner with the medical schools of four historically Black colleges and universities, including Howard. The Washington Commanders are among the eight teams that will participate in the program’s first year, the NFL said.

Other changes

The league amended its anti-tampering policy to prohibit in-person head coaching interviews with candidates from other teams until after the first-round playoff games. The new approach is designed to slow the interview process so teams with head coaching vacancies can consider a diverse slate of candidates.

Remote interviews are permitted sooner, in some cases. Teams can interview head coaching candidates on squads not in the playoffs beginning on the third day after the regular season. The same timetable applies to head coaching candidates on playoff teams with first-round byes. For candidates on playoff teams playing in the first round, it’s the Tuesday or Wednesday following those games.

Among the topics that the owners discussed during their privileged session late Tuesday was Goodell’s compensation and a possible next contract for him, according to a person familiar with the situation. The 63-year-old’s deal expires in 2024.

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