Deshaun Watson remains on track to start for the Cleveland Browns on December 4 against his former team, the Houston Texans, general manager Andrew Berry told reporters Wednesday.
Although he can’t begin practicing with the team until November 14, Watson is now allowed to attend team meetings and work out at the team facility as he continues to serve his 11-game ban for alleged sexual misconduct.
On Wednesday, Berry said he expects Watson to be under center when Cleveland (3-5) travels to Houston for its December 4 game against the Texans.
Deshaun Watson remains on track to start for the Cleveland Browns on December 4 against his former team, the Houston Texans , general manager Andrew Berry told reporters Wednesday
‘It’s been great to have him back in the building,’ Berry told reporters. ‘He’s been focused on working on himself, he’s stayed in great shape, he’s been a part of the meetings.
‘He’s done everything and more that’s been asked of him. We’ll be excited to have him when he can continue to ramp up football activities and get back on the practice field.’
The suspended quarterback has not played in an NFL game since 2020, when he and the hapless Texans finished 4-12. He requested a trade following the season, but that was put on hold as allegations of sexual misconduct began to emerge about Watson, who has since settled 23 of 24 lawsuits filed against him in Texas.
In response to the allegations, Houston benched Watson for the 2021 season.
He was traded to the quarterback-starved Browns in March for three first-round picks as well as third- and fourth-round selections, and was promptly re-signed to a five-year, $230 million contract, all of which is guaranteed.
Ashley Solis, second right, the first woman to file sexual assault claims against then-Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, gives a statement during a news conference with attorney Tony Buzbee and his legal team on April 6, 2021, in Houston. Solis’s lawsuit hasn’t been settled
But although two Texas grand juries declined to press charges against Watson, who is accused of everything from sexual harassment to sexual assault, the NFL still decided to suspend the former Clemson star for violating the league personal conduct policy.
Sue L. Robinson, an independent arbiter appointed by the league and players’ union, found that ‘the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault.’
Robinson, a former federal judge, wrote that Watson’s behavior was both ‘egregious’ and ‘predatory.’
The 27-year-old was originally suspended six games before the NFL appealed the perceived light sentence in August. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had the right to rule over the appeal, but instead tapped former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey to handle the duties.
Ultimately, though, the NFL and players’ union reached a compromise before Harvey issued his decision, resulting in the 11-game ban.
As part of the deal, Watson was required to ‘promptly undergo a professional evaluation by behavioral experts and will follow their treatment program.’
He previously told reporters that he was already undergoing counseling.
Some of Watson’s accusers are pictured in a Texas courtroom, where the first of two grand juries declined to press charges related to the sexual misconduct lawsuits against the NFL star
Women’s groups largely condemned the final punishment, although the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center applauded the NFL for stiffening the six-game ban that was originally imposed on Watson.
‘Cleveland Rape Crisis Center stands with those who have been hurt by Deshaun Watson,’ read the statement from the group. ‘While traditional avenues of criminal justice may have failed his accusers, today’s NFL and NFLPA settlement of increased punishment is a step towards validating their experiences.’
On Wednesday, Berry acknowledged that it will take Watson some time to shake off the rust.
‘Our approach isn’t to, really any quarterback, but certainly with the time Deshaun has had off, expect him to shoulder everything,’ Berry said. ‘That’s not how the team is designed or put together. And I don’t think that would be a fair ask for any quarterback.’
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