Deshaun Watson "understands there's work to do" following his Cleveland Browns preseason debut, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Watson has not played a competitive game since January 2021 and is set to see that wait extended at least into October.

The Browns quarterback is facing a six-game suspension following a disciplinary hearing, although the NFL has appealed for a longer ban after sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

Watson, who faced 24 civil lawsuits, was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but he apologised "to all of the women that I have impacted" ahead of Friday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When the game got underway, Watson was clearly rusty, with his first pass in a Browns uniform an awful overthrow.

Although the Browns won 24-13 – having trailed 13-0 – Stefanski acknowledged Watson's debut might not have gone exactly as he planned, but the coach was asked if the uncertainty around his suspension had contributed to the shaky performance and replied: "I don't think so, I don't."

Stefanski said: "I think he probably wants some throws back.

"Obviously playing football for the first time in a while, it was important for him to get out there, with his team-mates, in this scheme, hearing a different voice in the helmet, those kind of things.

"I'm sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early, but I think he understands there's work to do."

While Watson's status has been unclear for some time, Stefanski explained the team had been working towards giving him his bow in preseason.

"It's been something we've been talking about throughout the last months and weeks, trying to figure out what the best path forward was not just for our quarterbacks but for our entire team," he said.

"We just thought getting him some time out there in a game setting made sense in this preseason."

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has apologized for the first time to the women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.

Watson's immediate playing future in the NFL is in limbo after the NFL appealed a six-game ban handed by independent arbiter Sue L. Robinson last week for violating the league's personal conduct policy.

The league was seeking a minimum one-year suspension as well as a fine of at least $5million. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has appointed Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal.

In the meantime, the Browns announced on Wednesday that Watson would play in Friday's preseason opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Ahead of Friday's game, Watson appeared in an in-house video where he spoke about the situation and apologized for his actions for the first time, having previously said he had "no regrets".

"I want to say that I'm truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation," Watson said.

"The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position, I would definitely like to have back.

"But I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward."

Watson had been facing 24 civil lawsuits filed by female message therapists alleging sexual misconduct between 2020 and 2021 during his time with the Texans.

The three-time Pro Bowler was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. He settled 20 of the lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported at the start of August ahead of the verdict of his NFL hearing.

Friday's appearance marked Watson's in an NFL game of any kind since the 2020 season finale, dating back to January 3 2021.

The Houston Texans had held him out of all of their 2021 games while a criminal investigation into the allegations was conducted. He was traded to the Browns in March this year.

"Each and every snap, I want to make sure I cherish that because I'm not sure when the next time I'll be able to get out there with those guys," he said.

Watson added that he would work on personal growth during his probable time out of the game.

"I know I have a lot of work to put in, especially on the field to be able to make sure I'm ready to play whenever that time comes whenever I can step back on the field," he said.

"But also, the biggest thing is I want to continue counseling and I want to make sure that I'm growing as a person, as an individual for my decision-making on and off the field.

"I want to make sure that I'm just evolving in the community as much as possible, and that is for the Cleveland community, that is the NFL community and beyond."

While his regular-season debut as a Cleveland Brown will not come until at least October, Deshaun Watson's first game with his new team is now just days away.

The Browns announced Wednesday that Watson will start Friday's preseason opener against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, though it is unclear how much the embattled quarterback will play in his first appearance since being acquired from the Houston Texans in March.

Watson is facing a suspension of at least six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy but is eligible to play in the preseason. The three-time Pro Bowler had been facing 24 civil lawsuits filed by female message therapists alleging sexual misconduct between 2020 and 2021 during his time with the Texans.

He was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing. Watson settled 20 of the lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported at the start of August ahead of the verdict of his NFL hearing.

The NFL announced last week it will appeal arbiter Judge Sue L. Robinson's ruling in hopes of extending the ban. The league was seeking a minimum one-year suspension as well as a fine of at least $5million.

"We decided it was the right thing to do," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday at the league's owners meetings in Bloomington, Minnesota.

"We've seen the evidence. [Judge Robinson] was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there was multiple violations here and they were egregious, and it was predatory behavior. Those are things that we always felt were important for us to address in a way that's responsible."

The Browns signed Watson to a five-year, $230m fully guaranteed extension following the trade and structured the deal so he would face lesser financial penalties in the event of a suspension. He is due a base salary of only $690,000 in 2022.

Watson has not appeared in an NFL game of any kind since the 2020 season finale. The Texans held him out of all of their 2021 games while a criminal investigation into the allegations was conducted.

A grand jury ultimately dropped all criminal charges in March, and Watson's attorneys have since settled all but one of the civil cases.

Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski did not reveal his quarterback plans for the preseason when speaking to reporters Tuesday. The Browns held a closed practice Wednesday and were set to fly to Jacksonville later in the evening.

"We have a framework for how we are going to handle this preseason," Stefanski said Tuesday. "As you know, you always reserve the right to change your mind based on how practice goes and those types of things, but we are pretty confident in the plan we have."

Veteran Jacoby Brissett, who is 14-23 in 37 career starts, will serve as the Browns' quarterback during Watson's suspension. The journeyman started five games for the Miami Dolphins last season and finished the campaign with 1,283 passing yards, five touchdown passes, four interceptions and a 78.1 passer rating. 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has explained the league appealed the advised six-game ban for Deshaun Watson because a disciplinary hearing found "egregious" violations and "predatory behaviour".

Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback settled 20 of the lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported at the start of August ahead of the verdict of his NFL hearing.

Former US district judge Sue L. Robinson oversaw those proceedings and concluded Watson should miss six games with no additional fine.

But the NFL felt, having reviewed that decision, the evidence uncovered by Robinson required a harsher punishment, and it has used its right to appeal.

It is widely reported the league believes Watson should be suspended for the entire 2022 season, and Goodell outlined why this is the case.

"We've seen the evidence," he said. "[Robinson] was very clear about the evidence, should we enforce the evidence – that there were multiple violations here, and they were egregious, and it was predatory behaviour.

"Those are things that we always felt were important for us to address in a way that's responsible."

A quarterback facing a suspension amid an NFL disciplinary case over sexual misconduct allegations and a running back demanding a trade after the team nixed his request for a long-term contract extension is all part of a normal training camp, as far as Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski is concerned.

After the Browns opened camp with QB Deshaun Watson being suspended for six games – which the NFL is appealing to seek a harsher penalty – running back Kareem Hunt sat out practices over the weekend while wanting a new deal. That request was denied, prompting Hunt to ask to be traded.

There is no shortage of drama at the Browns' camp, but Stefanski believes it is par for the course.

''We are working, there is no distraction,'' Stefanski said on Sunday. ''I understand there are things that happen that certainly get attention, and that's OK... This is normal. This is NFL football, as far as I know.''

Hunt, who is in the final year of a two-year, $13.25million extension, did return to practice on Sunday, while Watson continues to train and is currently available to play in Cleveland's pre-season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Friday.

"I would tell you, respectfully, we really do focus on what we can control,” Stefanski added. “I understand that there are things that happen that certainly get attention, and that is OK.

"This is a great game. I know our fans love this game and follow every step along the way.

"For us, we really are focused on trying to get better. We are not where we need to be, and we have a lot of work to do. That is what we are focusing on."

Limited to just eight games in 2021 due to calf and ankle injuries, Hunt had 1,145 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns for the Browns in 2020, while appearing in all 16 games.

Cleveland made the playoffs that season with Hunt and Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb forming a solid one-two punch.

The NFL's rushing leader in 2017 with Kansas City, Hunt joined the Browns in 2019 but sat out the first eight games that season after being suspended for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy while playing for the Chiefs.

Watson, who was acquired by Cleveland in March, was suspended for the first six games of the upcoming season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

The league, however, is seeking a longer penalty after two dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct during massage treatments while he played for the Houston Texans.

Cleveland Browns guard Wyatt Teller has discussed the uncertainty around quarterback Deshaun Watson, saying he and his team-mates "want to know what is going on and be done with it".

Watson was set to be issued a six-game suspension on Monday following a disciplinary hearing conducted by former US district judge Sue L. Robinson.

The NFL has since formally appealed that suspension in order to seek a harsher penalty for Watson, who had been facing 24 separate civil lawsuits filed by female massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct between 2020 and 2021 during his time with the Houston Texans.

Watson settled 20 of 24 lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported on Monday ahead of the hearing verdict.

He has not played since the 2020 season and was traded to the Browns in March, signing a fully guaranteed five-year $230million contract.

While the league appeals the decision, the Browns do not know if Watson will be their starting QB in Week 1, as any ban could be delayed.

Asked about how the developments were distracting from the team's preparations, Pro Bowler Teller told reporters: "It is only a distraction if you turn on the TV and you are listening to it and everything like that.

"It has been pretty quiet in my household at least, but I know that it is the talk of the town and there has to be something to talk about. Obviously, it is big, but we are focused so much on what we are doing.

"Obviously, we want to know what is going on and be done with it. I think that if any team was in that situation, that is what they would want."

As and when Watson does miss games, Jacoby Brissett will be the man to start under center for the Browns.

And Teller is confident the team can still have a productive offense led by the former Miami Dolphins QB, adding: "He is a talented quarterback, and I am excited to see what he has.

"He has been here the whole time. He is studying the playbook. He has been learning." 

The NFL has formally appealed the six-game suspension that was handed down to Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson by an independent arbiter earlier this week.

The league is seeking a harsher penalty for Watson, who had been facing 24 separate civil lawsuits filed by female massage therapists alleging sexual misconduct between 2020 and 2021 during his time with the Houston Texans.

"The NFL notified the NFLPA (NFL Players' Association) that it will appeal Judge [Sue L] Robinson's disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon," the league announced in a statement on Wednesday. "Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal."

Judge Robinson, the appointed disciplinary officer for the case, confirmed in Monday's ruling that the NFL sought to have Watson suspended for the entire 2022 season, but stated that a longer ban would be inconsistent with previous punishments levied for players found in violation of the league's personal conduct policy.

"Although I have found Mr Watson to have violated the Policy, I have done so using the NFL's post-hoc definitions of the prohibited conduct at issue," Robinson wrote. "It is inherently unfair to identify conduct as prohibited only after the conduct has been committed, just as it is inherently unjust to change the penalties for such conduct after the fact.

"The NFL is a private organisation and can operate as it deems fit, but the post-hoc determination of what constitutes the prohibited conduct here cannot genuinely satisfy the 'fairness' prong of the standard of review or justify the imposition of the unprecedented sanction requested by the NFL."

Robinson did note in the ruling that she found Watson's behaviour to be egregious and unremorseful, and said that a sterner punishment would be justifiable had it been outlined in the personal conduct policy.

"While it may be entirely appropriate to more severely discipline players for non-violent sexual conduct, I do not believe it is appropriate to do so without notice of the extraordinary change this position portends for the NFL and its players," she wrote.

The Texans held Watson out of all of their 2021 games during a criminal investigation into the allegations, though he was paid his entire $10.54million salary. A grand jury ultimately dropped all criminal charges in March, and Watson's attorneys have since settled all but one of the 24 civil cases.

Houston traded the three-time Pro Bowler to Cleveland in March, and the Browns promptly signed Watson to a five-year, $230m extension that is entirely guaranteed.

According to the Associated Press, the NFL also requested Watson receive a minimum fine of $5m. Robinson did not issue any additional financial penalties beyond the $345,000 in salary Watson will forfeit over the course of the suspension.

The NFLPA announced prior to Robinson's ruling that it would abide by the decision regardless of the result.

Baker Mayfield's focus is solely on the Carolina Panthers and his "transparent" battle with fellow quarterback Sam Darnold, despite developments in the Deshaun Watson saga at former team the Cleveland Browns.

Mayfield – the Browns' first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft – was traded to the Panthers last month after Cleveland had moved for Watson.

But when the Panthers play the Browns in Week 1, Watson will be absent, following news of his suspension by the league on Monday.

Former US district judge Sue L. Robinson advised the NFL that Watson should be banned for six games with no additional fine following a disciplinary hearing.

Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The NFL could yet appeal that decision and pursue a longer suspension, but both the Browns and the NFLPA have accepted the punishment.

Jacoby Brissett will instead fill in until late October, but that is of no interest to Mayfield, who told reporters: "Honestly, it's none of my business.

"I don't play against the other quarterback. I know that's the most cliched thing to say, but that's just the truth.

"When it comes down to it, I'm game-planning against their defense, and if I'm playing or not, I'm trying to help this team win. That's my mindset going into it, so I've got to keep getting better.

"But I'm not focused about Week 1 right now. We'll handle that when it comes, but for now it's about getting the Panthers better and our offense continuing to get better as well."

Indeed, there is no guarantee Mayfield will be starting either, as he faces competition from Darnold – the third overall pick in the same 2018 draft – for the starting spot.

Mayfield is happy with how that tussle has been treated by his new team, though.

"Everything has been extremely transparent," he said. "They're telling us exactly how they're handling it.

"It's not being said to one person and Sam hears another thing; it's right there in front of us and clear and concise."

The Cleveland Browns "respect" the decision of a former US district judge to impose a six-game suspension on quarterback Deshaun Watson.

Former Houston Texan Watson faced 24 civil lawsuits following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The NFL was seeking a suspension for a breach of the league's personal conduct policy, and retired judge Sue L Robinson ruled Watson should be sidelined for six games with no additional fine.

The league issued a statement earlier on Monday saying it would review the findings before deciding whether to appeal, while the NFL Players' Association (NFLPA) previously said on Sunday it would "stand by" the ruling once it arrived.

The Browns also issued a statement on Monday, saying: "Throughout this process, Deshaun and his representatives have abided by the newly created and agreed upon process for the NFLPA and the NFL to defer to the objective Judge Sue L Robinson to comprehensively review all information and make a fair decision.

"We respect Judge Robinson's decision, and at the same time, empathise and understand that there have been many individuals triggered throughout this process.

"We know Deshaun is remorseful that this situation has caused much heartache to many and he will continue the work needed to show who he is on and off the field, and we will continue to support him."

The NFL and the NFLPA have three days to appeal against the decision.

Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski also spoke to the media on Monday and echoed the sentiments of the organisation's statement, saying: "I'm going to respect Judge Robinson and her opinion right now until more information becomes available to me... It remains a process that we're certainly respectful of.

"[Watson] is working to be the best version of himself... He's said that publicly, he's said that privately, and I believe that."

Stefanski added: "I feel incredible empathy for anyone that's been impacted by the decision. It's something I don't take lightly."

The NFL will review the decision of a former US district judge to impose a six-game suspension on Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The former Houston Texans star faced 24 civil lawsuits following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

The NFL was seeking a suspension for a breach of the league's personal conduct policy, and retired judge Sue L Robinson ruled Watson should be sidelined for six games with no additional fine.

The league issued a statement on Monday that read: "We thank Judge Sue L Robinson, the independent disciplinary officer, for her review of the voluminous record and attention during a three-day hearing that resulted in her finding multiple violations of the NFL personal conduct policy by Deshaun Watson.

"We appreciate Judge Robinson's diligence and professionalism throughout this process.

"Pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement, the NFL or the NFLPA [NFL Players' Association] on behalf of Watson may appeal the decision within three days.

"In light of her findings, the league is reviewing Judge Robinson's imposition of a six-game suspension and will make a determination on next steps."

Despite the NFL stating the possibility of an appeal, the NFLPA previously confirmed it would not oppose any decision taken by Robinson.

"Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the league office," the NFLPA said in a statement on Sunday.

"This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling, and we call on the NFL to do the same."

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to be issued a six-game suspension following a disciplinary hearing conducted by former US district judge Sue L. Robinson.

The former Houston Texans star faced 24 civil lawsuits following sexual assault and misconduct allegations. He was not charged by two grand juries.

The NFL was seeking a suspension for a breach of the league's personal conduct policy, and Robinson has ruled Watson should be suspended for six games with no additional fine, according to NFL Network.

That would see the Browns without Watson for games against the Carolina Panthers, the New York Jets, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots.

His Cleveland debut would potentially follow against the Baltimore Ravens on October 23.

The NFL and the NFLPA have three days to appeal the decision, although the latter had already confirmed on Sunday it would not oppose any decision taken by Robinson. 

"Every player, owner, business partner and stakeholder deserves to know that our process is legitimate and will not be tarnished based on the whims of the league office," the NFLPA said in a statement.

"This is why, regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling, and we call on the NFL to do the same."

Watson settled 20 of 24 lawsuits in June, with a further three settlements reported on Monday ahead of the hearing verdict.

He has not played since the 2020 season and was traded to the Browns in March, signing a fully guaranteed five-year $230million contract.

The Houston Texans have reached settlement agreements with 30 women who were willing to make claims against the team in relation to Deshaun Watson's alleged misconduct.

Quarterback Watson, who is now at the Cleveland Browns, was sued by 24 women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions in 2020 and 2021, when he was with the Texans.

Twenty of those civil lawsuits recently ended with confidential settlements, while Watson has vehemently denied any wrongdoing. 

Now ESPN have reported the Texans have agreed to settle with the 30 women, according to a statement from the attorney for the women, Tony Buzbee, who added the settlements were confidential.

"We were shocked and deeply saddened when we first learned of the allegations against our then franchise quarterback in March 2021," Texans owners Janice, Hannah and Cal McNair said in a statement, as quoted by ESPN.

"Although our organisation did not have any knowledge of Deshaun Watson's alleged misconduct, we have intentionally chosen to resolve this matter amicably.

"This is not an admission of any wrongdoing, but instead a clear stand against any form of sexual assault and misconduct.

"We hope that today's resolution will provide some form of closure to the parties involved, our fans and the Houston community at large.

"As an organisation, we will now turn our focus to the future and doing what we can to ensure respect for all."

A retired federal judge will make a decision on Watson's immediate NFL future, with a hearing already under way to determine whether he violated the league's personal conduct policy.

The Carolina Panthers have agreed to acquire former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a conditional fifth-round draft pick in 2024.

Mayfield was expected to return as Cleveland's starting quarterback next season before the Browns surprisingly signed Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans in March.

Cleveland then signed Watson, who sat out all of last season amid allegations of sexual misconduct, to a fully guaranteed five-year, $230million contract.

With Watson's availability for the upcoming season still unclear, there was a slight chance Mayfield could remain with the Browns despite his trade demand.

But that ended Wednesday, and Mayfield will now head to a Panthers team that has not reached the postseason since 2017.

Mayfield went 29-30 in 59 regular-season starts with the Browns after they selected him No. 1 overall in 2018.

He led Cleveland to its first playoff appearance in 18 years in 2020 as the Browns reached the AFC Divisional Round before losing to the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

That was Cleveland's only playoff appearance during Mayfield's tenure.

Now, Mayfield will compete with Sam Darnold for the Panthers' starting job, with the winner of that battle getting to face the Browns at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte in Week 1.

 

 

A retired federal judge will make a decision on Deshaun Watson's immediate NFL future, with a hearing set to begin on Tuesday determining whether he violated the league's personal conduct policy.

The Cleveland Browns quarterback was sued by 24 women who accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions in 2020 and 2021, when he was with the Houston Texans.

Twenty of those civil lawsuits recently ended with confidential settlements and Watson, who will attend the hearing in person, denies any wrongdoing. 

Two grand juries in Texas have already looked at complaints against Watson and declined to indict him on criminal charges, though the NFL conduct policy does not require criminal charges in order to bring discipline.

Following an NFL investigation, it is widely reported they will seek an indefinite suspension of at least a year.

The league's personal conduct policy aims to hold players and personnel to a "higher standard" and make sure they conduct themselves appropriately.

Retired federal judge Sue Robinson is the disciplinary officer appointed for the case and will issue a verdict on whether any violation occurred.

A verdict is expected next week before training camp but that may not bring the end to the matter.

Watson's representatives and the NFL Players Association would have the ability to appeal against any punishment, such as a suspension, while the NFL could also appeal for an increased sanction if they do not agree with the verdict.

But there will be no appeals if he is cleared of the charges.

Watson is hoping to avoid being sidelined for the second season in a row. He was not suspended in the 2021 campaign but did not play for the Texans amid his legal issues, having also requested a trade.

One of the game's leading QBs, Watson was ultimately traded in March this year. The Browns gave him a record guaranteed contract of $230million over five years.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has settled all but four of the 24 civil lawsuits for sexual misconduct brought against him, according to attorney Tony Buzbee. 

Buzbee represents the women suing Watson, who has been accused of committing sexual misconduct during massage sessions by two dozen women.

"Today I announce that all cases against Deshaun Watson, with the exception of four, have settled," Buzbee said in a statement on Tuesday.

"We are working through the paperwork related to those settlements. Once we have done so, those particular cases will be dismissed. The terms and amounts of the settlements are confidential. We won't comment further on the settlements or those cases."

One of the four women who did not settle is Ashley Solis – the first woman to accuse Watson of inappropriate sexual conduct. 

"Ashley Solis is one of the heroes of this story," Buzbee said. "Her case has not settled and thus her story and that of the other three brave women will continue. I look forward to trying these cases in due course, consistent with other docket obligations and the court's schedule."

Watson has not commented on Buzbee's statement.

Until all 24 cases are settled, Watson's NFL future is still uncertain. The NFL is conducting its own investigation into whether he violated the league's code of conduct.

The New York Times recently reported the embattled quarterback hired at least 66 different women for private massages over the course of 17 months. Watson has long maintained he is innocent of any wrongdoing. 

 

 

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