Falcons silent on Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension

Calvin Ridley suspended for a year for gambling on games

FLOWERY BRANCH – Over the offseason, the Falcons pursued quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was facing more than 20 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct.

The Falcons lost the battle to Cleveland, which out-bid them with a fully guaranteed contract. The failed move led to the team trading franchise quarterback Matt Ryan to the Colts for a third-round pick.

Watson, who’s from Gainesville and was a former ball boy for team, was suspended by the league office for six games on Monday for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Both the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association have three days to appeal the ruling of disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson.

“That’s a league matter,’ Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said on Monday. “I just read that just like you did. That’s a league matter, though. We focus on the things we can control and don’t really waste our time or energy on things we can’t control.”

Falcons coach Arthur Smith also referred to the Watson case “as a league matter.”

The Falcons have repeatedly discussed character and makeup when building the team, which seems to fly in the face of their pursuit of Watson, who played at Clemson and guided them to a national championship.

Watson played four seasons for the Texans before the trade to Cleveland in March. He recently settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits filed by women alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage therapy appointments in 2020 and 2021.

“We’re going to always focus on makeup,” Fontenot said. “We’re going to focus on character and focus on bringing in the right types of players. We have the right type of players when you look at the practices and the way players are competing.

“We have a lot of guys that love ball. They love to compete. So, that’s always going to be at the forefront of what we do. That’s not going to change.”

However, in light of their pursuit of Watson, the Falcons plan to leave the door open for some players with issues who can elevate the talent level.

“We’re always going to look at a lot of things and go through – whether we’re talking about college players, pro players – we’re going to turn over every single stone that we can,” Fontenot said. “That’s going to be a part of the process. The character is always going to be at the forefront of that.”

After Ryan’s unceremonious departure, the Falcons signed quarterback Marcus Mariota and drafted former Cincinnati signal-caller Desmond Ridder in the third round of the draft.

After five practices, both appear to be off to a strong start in training camp.

“We’re really excited about where Desmond is,” Fontenot said. “Excited about where Marcus is. Both players, obviously, you see the physical tools and the traits – they’re mobile, they run around, you see the throws that they’re making out on the field. They both have all of the physical traits, but the makeup, really the way they prepare, the mental, the types of teammates they are, we’ve been very pleased with both players, and we’re excited about that.”

Some of the players have trouble ascertaining why Watson was only suspended for six games and Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was suspending indefinitely for gambling on NFL games.

Wide receiver/running back Cordarrelle Patterson tweeted, “Free my dawg” with a picture of he and Ridley after the Watson news was released.

“That’s a league matter,” Fontenot repeated the team’s buzz words when asked to square the two suspensions. “We have enough on our plate here. We have to focus on the things that we can control.”

Flirting with Watson appears to fly in the face of the determination to bring in players with so-called “good character.”

“We’ve had that discussion,” Fontenot said. “We’re not going to continue to re-hash the same thing. We’re not going to do that. We talked about that. We talked about that matter and we’re moving forward.”

Watson can keep practicing with the Browns until the first week of the regular season starts. He can return to practice Week 4, but will not be eligible to play until Oct. 23 with the Browns play at Baltimore.

He will miss the game against the Falcons on Oct. 4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Ridley, who was set to enter the fifth year of his contract that was to pay him $11.1 million, can apply for reinstatement on Feb. 15, 2023.

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