Deshaun Watson Speaks Publicly For First Time Since Suspension
By Jason Hall
December 1, 2022
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson dodged non-football related questions while addressing reporters for the first time since returning from his 11-game suspension for allegations of sexual misconduct.
Watson said he was advised by his legal and clinical teams to only address "football questions" during his opening statement to reporters on Thursday (December 1).
“I’m focusing on football,” Watson said via the Associated Press. “My main focus is locked in on the game plan and trying to execute and make sure that I’m keeping the standard up for the Cleveland Browns so we can try to win.”
Watson was officially added back to the Browns' 53-man roster on Monday (November 28) and is expected to start Sunday (December 4) against his former team, the Houston Texans, following the completion of his suspension, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported.
Deshaun Watson’s opening statement. Thanks Jacoby Brissett. Thanks browns and trainers and fans. Also says he is only answering Football questions for legal reasons. pic.twitter.com/rHemk0eD8I— James Palmer (@JamesPalmerTV) December 1, 2022
The Browns waived backup quarterback Joshua Dobbs in order to make room for Watson, Schefter reported.
Browns officially added Deshaun Watson to their 53-man roster today. He is slated to start Sunday vs. the Texans.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 28, 2022
Watson was cleared to practice on November 14 in preparation for the Browns' Week 13 matchup at NRG Stadium.
Last month, general manager Andrew Berry announced that Watson would take over as the Browns' starting quarterback once his suspension concluded via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
#Browns Andrew Berry said Deshaun Watson will start the 1st game he's eligible, Dec. 4th in Houston vs. #Texans, even though Jacoby Brissett has been 'everything we hoped when we signed him'— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) November 2, 2022
In August, Watson's suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy was extended to 11 games and a $5 million fine was implemented following a settlement between the National Football League and NFL Players Association, Schefter reported at the time.
Breaking: NFL and NFLPA reached agreement on an 11-game suspension for Browns QB Deshaun Watson, per sources. The settlement also includes a fine of $5 million that will go to charity. Deal still is not signed but it is agreed to. pic.twitter.com/2dFvcePL9k— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 18, 2022
"Breaking: NFL and NFLPA reached agreement on an 11-game suspension for Browns QB Deshaun Watson, per sources," Schefter tweeted. "The settlement also includes a fine of $5 million that will go to charity. Deal still is not signed but it is agreed to."
The NFL later confirmed the settlement in an official news release shared by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The NFL has now announced the settlement for #Browns QB Deshaun Watson pic.twitter.com/q5fg5BRQa5— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 18, 2022
The quarterback addressed reporters after the announced settlement and denied "ever assaulting anyone or disrespecting anyone."
"I will continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward," Watson said via Cabot. "I've always stood on not disrespecting or sexually assaulting anyone."
#Browns Deshaun Watson: “I stand on my innocence” pic.twitter.com/OuxzRjdflH— Mary Kay Cabot (@MaryKayCabot) August 18, 2022
Watson was previously facing a six-game suspension handed down by appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, but the NFL has appealed the ruling and plans to seek a one-year ban.
Watson started in the Browns' preseason opener in August -- his first NFL appearance since January 2020 -- and threw for seven yards and completed 1 of 5 pass attempts during a 24-13 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Browns' announcement that Watson would start came one day after NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly said that the league has "seen the evidence" necessary to pursue a one-year ban for the quarterback, referring to Watson's alleged actions as "egregious" and "predatory behavior."
Goodell spoke publicly on August 9 following a special league meeting in Minneapolis to officially approve the sale of the Denver Broncos and addressed the NFL's decision to appeal Watson's six-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy previously handed down by Robinson.
"We've seen the evidence," Goodell said via NFL.com. "[Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson] was very clear about the evidence, should we enforce 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."
In August, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport shared a statement from NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy, which said, "the NFL notified the NFLPA that it will appeal Judge Robinson's disciplinary decision and filed its brief this afternoon. Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine who will hear the appeal."