Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh has a lot of thoughts about the Deshaun Watson situation, but he’s not going to make them public. Instead, Harbaugh chose to focus on how the Ravens handle similar situations, saying he’s glad the team has a “zero tolerance” policy.
Watson received a six-game suspension from an independent arbitrator Monday after multiple women accused Watson of sexual misconduct. The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell can appeal that suspension. If it remains six games, Watson will make his 2022 debut against the Ravens in Week 7.
Harbaugh cited a “zero tolerance” team policy when asked about Watson on Monday.
Harbaugh did not go into specifics on that “zero tolerance” policy. It’s unclear if the Ravens have a specific policy when it comes to players accused of sexual misconduct or assault, or if the team’s policy is a more general character clause.
The Ravens appear to have made some strides in that area in recent seasons. The team had sexual assault activist Brenda Tracy speak to players in 2019. The team also reportedly asked cornerback Gareon Conley, who was accused of sexual assault in college, to take a polygraph test before the 2017 NFL draft. The Ravens selected Marlon Humphrey over Conley in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. The Baltimore Sun article from 2017 detailing the Conley situation states the Ravens “have not signed or drafted a player with a record of domestic violence since Ray Rice was cut in 2014.”
The Ravens received criticism for their handling of the Rice situation before he was eventually cut. Rice was originally suspended for two games by the NFL after he was accused of domestic violence against his then-fiancée. Members of the Ravens, including Harbaugh, offered words of support for Rice initially. Harbaugh called Rice a “person of character” who made a mistake.
The Ravens reversed course once a video of Rice punching his then-fiancée in the face was released. The team cut Rice and Goodell extended Rice’s suspension. Harbaugh said the team’s policy has been in place for “almost 10 years,” signaling that it may have been put in place after Rice was cut.
In 2018, the NFL suspended Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith for four games for threatening and emotionally abusing his ex-girlfriend. The Ravens called Smith’s behavior “inappropriate and wrong” at the time. Smith publicly apologized to his ex-girlfriend, the team and Ravens fans and took “full responsibility” for his actions.
Smith served his four-game suspension and played 12 games for the Ravens in 2018. He remained with the team through the 2021 NFL season and is currently a free agent.