The NFL’s most famous suspensions

Quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended Monday for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy and was not fined, ending the league’s 15-month investigation into sexual misconduct claims made against him by more than two dozen women.

It was the first NFL player disciplinary decision made by the arbitration process established by the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, which sought to strengthen a system criticized for inconsistencies and potential conflicts of interest.

Since Roger Goodell became NFL commissioner in 2006, he has taken a tougher stance on punishing players than his predecessors, handing out some of the longest player suspensions in league history. The personal conduct policy includes provisions for penalizing players even if their offense has not resulted in a criminal conviction.

But while Goodell once wielded unilateral power in disciplinary actions, policy revisions over the past decade have shifted some of the process to third parties. Watson’s fine was imposed by a retired federal judge and was approved jointly by the league and the players’ union. But Goodell, or someone he appoints, will still have the final say if the league appeals the decision.

Here are some of the most notable suspensions of NFL players during Goodell’s tenure as commissioner:

  • Michael Wick. vicky The former Atlanta guard was suspended indefinitely in 2007 for his role in a dog-fighting scandal. The suspension lasted two seasons; Vick was reinstated prior to the 2009 season after an 18-month suspension.

  • Aldon Smith. Smith, a defensive end who played in San Francisco and Oakland, was suspended in 2015 for violating the drug policy (he was charged with driving under the influence). The suspension lasted until Smith was signed by Dallas in 2020 and reinstated.

  • Dominic Rhodes. Rhodes, a running back who played for several teams, was suspended indefinitely in 2011 after failing a third drug test. He was reinstated in his position in 2014.

  • Jerrell Freeman. Freeman, a linebacker, was suspended for multiple games twice after testing positive while playing in Chicago in 2016 and 2017. .

  • Adam (Pacman) Jones. Jones, then a Tennessee cornerback, was Suspended for the 2007 season after multiple arrests, including a fight at a strip club that left three people shot.

  • Calvin Ridley. Ridley, the Atlanta receiver, was suspended for at least a year after he placed bets on NFL games during the 2021 season with the team.

  • Donte Stallworth. After driving drunk after hitting and killing a pedestrian in Miami Beach, Stallworth, then a receiver with Cleveland, was suspended for the 2009 season. He pleaded guilty to premeditated murder.

  • Darren Waller. In 2017, Waller, then a Baltimore tight end, was suspended for at least a year for violating the substance abuse policy. He was suspended for four games in the 2016 season for the same violation. He was reinstated to his position in 2018.

  • Martvis Bryant. Bryant, a receiver, was suspended for at least a year for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2016. After being conditionally reinstated in April 2017, Bryant was suspended indefinitely in 2018 for violating the terms of his reinstatement.

  • Travis Henry. In 2008, Henry, then in Denver, was suspended for at least a year after testing positive for marijuana for the third time. Before his suspension was up, Henry was sentenced to three years in prison for financing a drug operation. The NFL reinstated it in 2012.

  • Josh Gordon. Gordon, who currently plays for Kansas City, has been suspended six times for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, including a suspension for the 2015 season. It was last suspended in January 2021 and reinstated in September 2021.

  • Ray Rice. Rice was initially suspended for two games by the NFL after he was arrested on domestic violence charges in July 2014. Two months later, after TMZ released a more graphic video of the attack, showing Rice knocking his fiancee unconscious in a hotel elevator, Baltimore broke the news. The running back has been suspended indefinitely by the NFL. Rice was reinstated on November 28 after the first 12 weeks of the 2014 season, but he was never signed by the team.

  • Vontaze Burfict. Burfict, an Oakland linebacker, was suspended for the rest of the 2019 season after his helmet hit Indianapolis’ Jack Doyle in the Week 4 game. Burfict’s suspension, the NFL’s longest suspension for on-the-field actions, reflected a long history of violating the league’s player safety policy.

  • Josh Brent: For his role in the drunken driving death of a Dallas teammate in 2013, Brent, a defensive tackle, was suspended 10 games of the 2014 season. He was also sentenced to 180 days in jail and 10 years of probation.

  • Antonio Brown. In 2020, the league suspended Brown, a receiver who was a free agent at the time, for sending threatening texts to a woman who accused him of sexual harassment and for his role in an argument with a moving company employee. He pleaded no contest to the theft and battery charges and received two years of probation. Brown denied the sexual assault allegations.

  • Chris Henry. The league suspended Henry, a Cincinnati receiver, in 2007 after he was arrested four times between December 2005 and June 2006.

  • Terry (Tank) Johnson. Johnson, then a defensive tackle with Chicago, was suspended in 2007 after police raided his home and found six unregistered firearms, violating his parole on weapons charges.

  • Michael Kendricks. Kendricks was suspended after pleading guilty to two insider trading charges in 2018.

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