Deshaun Watson

Browns Notes: Clowney, Stefanski, Watson, Johnson

Jadeveon Clowney made plenty of headlines recently with his remarks suggesting the Browns made a concerted effort on multiple occasions to give fellow edge rusher Myles Garrett favorable one-on-one matchups this season. The incident led to the 29-year-old being sent home for the season finale, and provided a further sign that he will be playing elsewhere in 2023.

Earlier this week, however, Clowney apologized to Garrett, who himself had a noteworthy public response to Clowney’s accusations. A statement from the latter said in part, “As a man I have reached out to Myles specifically to apologize. I will continue to learn and grow as a I move forward” (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). Clowney also claimed that his initial remarks were “completely misrepresented” and “taken out of context.”

On that point, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com has since responded that Clowney was quoted verbatim in their interview which included his statement that he had a “5%” chance of re-signing with the Browns this offseason. It remains to be seen if Clowney’s apology will increase the likelihood of another free agent deal being signed between the two parties, or if the former No. 1 pick will depart in a change-of-scenery move.

Here are some other Browns-related notes:

  • In light of issues such as defensive performance (which led to DC Joe Woods being fired) and discipline surrounding the team in 2022, questions have been raised regarding whether or not head coach Kevin Stefanski will delegate offensive play-calling duties. Cabot writes that he will likely retain his current role in 2023, however, citing his relationship with quarterback Deshaun Watson and their need to rebuild the playbook together as a main reason (subscription required). The Browns struggled to move the ball through the air this season, one in which Watson was suspended for the first 11 games, but they ranked sixth in the league with an average of 147 yards per game on the ground.
  • Watson’s suspension is now over, of course, but his legal battle is not. The embattled signal-caller will be forced to sit for a deposition pertaining to the 26th civil lawsuit filed against him, as detailed by USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer. After settling most of the claims made against him this summer, Watson, 27, currently faces two outstanding suits alleging sexual misconduct during massage sessions dating back to his time with the Texans.
  • Cleveland had one of the most highly-touted backfields this season, led by Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Their third-stringer, D’Ernest Johnson, also flashed plenty of potential in 2021 when called upon as a spot-starter, though, leading to expectations that he could replicate his success during this campaign. He received only 11 touches all year, however, something which he explained, via Chris Easterling of the Akron Beacon Journal, was a major source of frustration. The 26-year-old added that he has not yet head from the Browns regarding a new deal, signalling that he will head elsewhere in search of a larger workload in free agency.

AFC North Notes: Zimmer, Ravens’ Staff, Watson

The Bengals were struck with tragedy in October when assistant coach Adam Zimmer passed away. The 38-year-old had been hired to come back to Cincinnati earlier this year to work as an offensive analyst. The son of longtime Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, Adam had been in Minnesota since 2014 prior to that.

As detailed by Paul Walsh of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that Zimmer died of chronic alcohol abuse. Specifically, his passing came about due to “complications of chronic ethanol use disorder,” and was deemed to be natural. Zimmer had worked as an NFL staffer starting in 2006, spending time with the Saints and Chiefs before one year with the Bengals in 2013. He worked as a co-defensive coordinator of the Vikings in 2020 and 2021 before taking his final NFL role, the first which involved work on the offensive side of the ball.

Here are some other notes from the AFC North:

  • The Ravens clinched a playoff spot yesterday, and a division title is still within reach. Their offense has struggled throughout much of the season, however, especially in recent weeks with Lamar Jackson sidelined due to a PCL injury. That has led to calls for changes on the sidelines and increasing scrutiny on offensive coordinator Greg Roman in particular. No such move will be coming in at least the near future, though; head coach John Harbaugh stated (via ESPN’s Jamison Hensley, on Twitter) that he remains confident in his staff as is, adding that he is not considering any personnel changes at this time. Baltimore’s issues in the redzone have been a near-constant in 2022, with the team’s touchdown percentage of 46.3% ranking 30th in the league. In the three weeks with backup QB Tyler Huntley playing, that figure has plummeted to 22.2%.
  • The pursuit of Deshaun Watson was one of the league’s top storylines this offseason, with the Browns ultimately winning out. A large reason the recently-suspended passer chose to go to Cleveland was the nature of their fully-guaranteed, $230MM contract offer, of course, but another factor loomed large. The presence of head coach Kevin Stefanski was a “major reason” Watson chose to join the Browns, notes Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. The third-year HC has been reported to be on the hot seat this season, one in which the team has fallen short of expectations. A strong connection between he and Watson could help the Browns put together an encouraging end to the campaign, though, and help Stefanski remain in his post for at least 2023, the first year where Watson will be available for a full schedule since his acquisition.

AFC North Rumors: Ojabo, Cooper, Watson, Jackson

The Ravens‘ pass rush could receive a huge boost today as rookie second-round pick David Ojabo is reportedly set to make his NFL debut, according to Rich Eisen of NFL Network. The Score’s Jordan Schultz first reported Ojabo would be good to go this week.

Ojabo was a first-round talent who dropped to the second round of the draft when he suffered a torn Achilles while performing in his pro day at Michigan. Playing across from No. 2 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson, Ojabo was impressive in his own right, nearly matching Hutchinson blow-for-blow with 11 sacks and 12 tackles for loss to Hutchinson’s 14 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss.

The Ravens took the value pick, knowing that Ojabo likely wouldn’t debut for the team until late in the year and hoping it would help gear up the defense for a playoff run. The team designated Ojabo to return from the reserve/non-football injury list at the same time as they designated outside linebacker Tyus Bowser to return from the reserve/physically unable to perform list in mid-October. Both players were officially activated from their respective lists on November 1.

Both moves were announced shortly after Baltimore acquired Roquan Smith in a trade with the Bears. Bowser and Smith have already debuted for the Ravens this season, and the additions have been significant. Adding Ojabo to the mix give the Ravens a linebacking corps that consists of Smith, Patrick Queen, Bowser, Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Houston, Odafe Oweh, and Ojabo, among others. A unit that appeared to be a weakness heading into the season is now overloaded with talent.

Here are a few other rumors concerning the two teams in the AFC North that will face off later today:

  • Browns veteran wide receiver Amari Cooper has reportedly been dealing with a core muscle injury. The team’s top receiver has been playing through the injury, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, and hasn’t considered the prospect of potential surgery in the offseason. Losing Cooper would be detrimental for Cleveland. Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones account for 80% of the catches and nearly 86% of the receiving yards by Browns receivers. Cleveland wideouts have caught eight total touchdowns this season; Cooper has accounted for seven of them. Cooper has struggled to find chemistry so far this year with new starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. In two games with Watson behind center, Cooper has six catches for 82 yards.
  • Speaking of the Browns’ new starting passer, Watson has continued his mandatory treatment program, despite his 11-game suspension coming to an end. A report two weeks ago detailed that sources have claimed Watson has shown “signs of progress” during the program, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The program is confidential, so the laymen are not privy to the details of his treatment. A source with knowledge of the program told Schefter, “(Watson)’s been progressing well and he wants to continue with it.” The team, league, and Players Association feel it’s helping him, and he’ll continue treatment until it’s been determined that it’s no longer needed, which, reportedly, “could take a while.”
  • Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson will miss his second straight game with a PCL sprain today, allowing backup quarterback Tyler Huntley to make his second consecutive start. The team is hopeful, though, that Jackson will be back at practice this week, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. The Ravens remain hopeful that he may even play on Christmas Eve against the Falcons.
  • The Ravens will lose a staffer at the end of the year as defensive assistant Ryan Osborn is set to become the defensive coordinator at Charlotte at the conclusion of the season. Osborn works closely with the outside linebackers and defensive linemen for Baltimore. He held a similar role last year as a defensive analyst at the University of Michigan, before following defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald to Baltimore. Osborn was a key proponent in helping Hutchinson and Ojabo get drafted as highly as they were and has done an admirable job of piecing together a strong pass rush for a Ravens team that has dealt with injuries at the position.

Deshaun Watson Reinstated, Cleared For Browns Debut

1:37pm: The Browns have officially added Watson to their active roster, per a team announcement. To make room, Joshua Dobbs was waived, though Tom Pelissero of NFL Network tweets that the Browns have expressed an interest in keeping him in the fold on their practice squad should he go unclaimed.

10:00am: During the first 12 weeks of the season, the dominant storyline relating to the Browns has not been the team’s play on the field, but rather the status of their long-term starting quarterback. Deshaun Watson has complied with all conditions of his suspension and now, as expected, has been officially reinstated by the NFL (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport).

The news clears the way for Watson to make his Browns debut this Sunday, in what will be his first game action since the end of the 2020 regular season. Cleveland’s next opponent – Houston – was the location of the first five years of the former first-rounder’s career, although he didn’t see the field in 2021 amidst his ongoing trade request.

The Texans were unable to make good on that until Watson’s legal situation became clearer. The 27-year-old was not charged with a criminal offense in the wake of dozens of sexual misconduct and sexual assault allegations, leading to a bidding war to acquire him via a trade and sizable extension. The Browns eventually won out, sending a trade package including three first-round picks to the Texans, and signing Watson to a five-year, $230MM deal which is fully guaranteed.

The fact that that move came with civil suits pending – all but one of which, with respect to those in place at the time of Watson’s acquisition, have since been settled – made it one of the most controversial in NFL history. A six-game suspension was initially handed down following a lengthy league investigation and arbitration procedure, but that was met with widespread criticism. The NFL and NFLPA later agreed to an 11-game ban which was coupled with a $5MM fine and mandatory counseling.

Per the terms of that agreement, Watson’s involvement in team activities was restricted to begin the year. It was two weeks ago that he was permitted to practice in full for the first time, which he did. That left the Browns in a situation where splitting first-team reps between he and bridge starter Jacoby Brissett became necessary.

The latter has guided Cleveland to a 4-7 record, though regardless of the team’s success, Watson was always expected to take the field immediately. With the door slightly ajar for a run to an AFC Wild Card spot, the maligned passer will take the field as Cleveland’s No. 1 for the stretch run, beginning in Week 13.

Panthers QB Notes: Darnold, Mayfield, Rhule, Herbert, Stafford, Tepper, Watson

Although the Panthers are starting Baker Mayfield in Week 11, they want to see Sam Darnold in action this season. Steve Wilks said he would like to give Darnold some work, though the interim HC did not indicate that would be certain to happen this week against the Ravens. “I’m interested in winning the game. This is not pay $250 to get to play,” Wilks said, via The Athletic’s Joe Person (on Twitter).

Carolina used one of its injury activations to move Darnold onto its 53-man roster last week, but the former No. 3 overall pick did not see any action against the Falcons. P.J. Walker is out of the picture for the time being, after becoming the third Carolina QB this season to suffer a high ankle sprain. Mayfield will make his first start since sustaining his ankle injury in Week 9. Here is the latest from what has become one of the more complex QB situations in recent NFL history:

  • After playing hurt last season, Mayfield has not turned it around. On the radar for a potential franchise-QB deal in 2021, Mayfield is on track for free agency for the first time. The market for the former No. 1 overall pick may check in at $5-$7MM on a prove-it deal, David Newton of ESPN.com notes. Mayfield’s 17.7 QBR ranks last in the NFL.
  • This situation has been in flux since Cam Newton‘s 2019 foot injury. Prior to the team making the Newton-for-Teddy Bridgewater change, GM Marty Hurney and most of the Panthers’ scouts were high on Justin Herbert. But Matt Rhule did not view 2020 as the window to draft a quarterback, with Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com indicating in an expansive piece the team saw a jump from No. 7 overall to No. 4 — ahead of the QB-seeking Dolphins and Chargers — as too costly. While then-Giants GM Dave Gettleman was not keen on trading down, going most of his GM career without ever doing so, the Panthers not making a push for Herbert has led to QB chaos.
  • After the Panthers determined Bridgewater — a preference of former OC Joe Brady — would be a one-and-done in Charlotte, they made a big offer for Matthew Stafford. Negotiations between new Panthers GM Scott Fitterer and Lions rookie GM Brad Holmes at the 2021 Senior Bowl led to Panthers brass leaving Mobile believing they were set to acquire Stafford, Fowler notes. It is interesting to learn how far the GMs progressed in talks, because Stafford made it known soon after he did not want to play for the Panthers. The Rams then came in late with their two-first-rounder offer, forcing the Panthers and others to look elsewhere.
  • Rhule then pushed hard for Darnold, Fowler adds, after Panthers staffers went through film sessions evaluating he, Carson Wentz and Drew Lock. The Panthers sent the Jets second-, fourth- and sixth-round picks for the former No. 3 overall pick and picked up his guaranteed $18.9MM fifth-year option. Owner David Tepper begrudgingly picked up the option but became irked by the 2023 cost hanging over the franchise, per Fowler. Tepper is believed to have held up this year’s Mayfield trade talks in order to move the Browns to pick up more money on his option salary. The delay was connected to the Panthers already having Darnold’s fifth-year option to pay.
  • Tepper’s main prize during this multiyear QB odyssey, Deshaun Watson, was leery of the Panthers’ staff uncertainty, Fowler adds. All things being equal between the four finalists — Atlanta, Carolina, Cleveland, New Orleans — the Panthers were not believed to be Watson’s first choice. The Falcons were viewed as the team that would have landed Watson if the Browns did not make that unprecedented $230MM guarantee offer.
  • Fitterer offered support for a Mitch Trubisky signing this offseason, according to Fowler, who adds the team never engaged in extended talks with Jimmy Garoppolo‘s camp. While Garoppolo said the Panthers were in the mix, the team was believed to be leery of his injury history. Trubisky is in Year 1 of a two-year, $14.3MM deal. While Trubisky may well be available again in 2023, the Panthers — having added six draft picks from the Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson trades — will be connected to this year’s crop of QB prospects.

Deshaun Watson Participates In First Browns Practice

Today marked another important checkpoint for Deshaun Watson as he moves closer to his 2022 debut. The Browns quarterback took part in his first practice with the team on Wednesday.

Watson’s suspension imposed limits on his involvement with the team leading up to his reinstatement later this season. The last milestone came in October, when he was first allowed to resume certain activities including meetings and individual workouts. Today marked the first day during which he was eligible to practice in full with the team.

By receiving clearance to take the field, Watson remains on track to meet all necessary criteria from the suspension agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA in August. That deal included an 11-game ban, $5MM fine and mandatory counseling. He is in line to make his Cleveland debut in Week 13 against his previous team, the Texans.

The Browns brought in Jacoby Brissett to serve as the bridge starter between the start of the campaign and Watson’s return. The veteran has put up middling numbers – a 63.8% completion percentage, 8:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating of 87.1. That essentially falls in line with expectations entering the season, one in which the Browns were always poised to lean heavily on their ground game.

Doing so has produced the league’s tenth-highest scoring offense, but only a 3-6 record to date. As a result, Brissett’s final two games as the starter could go a long way in determining the team’s postseason outlook. That presents a problem for the Browns with respect to managing each QB’s workload during practice. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, along with James Palmer of NFL Network (video link) note that Watson received some first-team reps in an attempt to get him acclimated.

Preparation for the 27-year-old will remain key given his year-long stint on the sidelines with the Texans last year, not to mention the Browns’ five-year, $230MM commitment to him which is fully guaranteed despite the sexual misconduct and sexual assault allegations which made him the league’s biggest offseason storyline. As he presumably takes on a larger workload in the coming days and weeks, the Browns will look to remain in contention by the time he makes his first regular season appearance.

Deshaun Watson Hit With Another Lawsuit

11:50am: The NFL will monitor this lawsuit, according to spokesman Brian McCarthy (via Cabot). While McCarthy indicated Watson’s status is unchanged as of now, the prospect of additional punishment under the league’s personal conduct policy could be on the table.

8:58am: Deshaun Watson is facing another civil lawsuit from a woman alleging sexual misconduct during a massage therapy session. The woman accuses the then-Texans quarterback of pressuring her into oral sex during a December 2020 appointment, Claire Geary and Camryn Justice of News5Cleveland.com report.

This marks a 26th lawsuit filed against the Browns QB, who is midway through an 11-game suspension that came as a result of the dozens of lawsuits that emerged between March 2021 and June 2022. Watson, 27, entered the week with one outstanding lawsuit, which will be addressed — barring a settlement — in 2023. This latest matter may come up at that point as well.

The unnamed accuser, who is represented by attorney Anissah Nguyen, alleges Watson contacted her via Instagram and arranged an appointment at a Houstonian hotel room. Following a session in which the accuser claims Watson attempted to have sex with her and, per the lawsuit, pressured her into oral sex, he paid her $300 — more than double her usual massage rate — according to News5Cleveland. The accuser filed the lawsuit in Harris County (Texas).

Nguyen seeks to depose Watson this year, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Given the agreement Watson’s counsel and Tony Buzbee — the attorney for the other civil accusers — reached regarding Watson being deposed in-season, it would not surprise if a similar understanding pushed a Watson deposition in this case to 2023 as well.

Two grand juries, the first in Harris County, did not proceed with criminal charges against Watson last year, leading to the trade sweepstakes taking off. Jointly appointed disciplinary officer Sue Robinson subsequently ruled Watson committed nonviolent sexual assault, which led to the NFL appealing and pushing for a full-season suspension. An NFL-NFLPA settlement in August produced Watson’s 11-game suspension. Because this new civil suit alleges similar behavior and is from the timeframe as the others, Watson’s suspension is not expected to be impacted, Cabot and Dan Labbe of cleveland.com note.

The most recent Watson accuser’s suit states she is seeking “minimal compensatory damages” but indicates she has “suffered severe depression and anxiety” as a result of her encounter with Watson. As other suits against Watson alleged, this one accuses him of continually pressuring the accuser to “massage his private area.” While Watson settled with 23 accusers, the Texans settled with 30 women who alleged the former Houston starter committed sexual misconduct and/or sexual assault during massage therapy sessions. A June report indicated Watson saw at least 66 masseuses from fall 2019 to spring 2021. That report indicated Watson arranged for massage sessions at the Houstonian.

Watson, who has denied any wrongdoing amid this high volume of accusations, returned to the Browns’ facility this week. While his tone shifted from contrition back to defiance following the settlement, the recently traded passer is undergoing mandatory counseling during his suspension. Successfully navigating the treatment program will lead to Watson returning to Browns practice Nov. 14 and debuting for his new team in Week 13 in Houston.

Latest On Browns QB Deshaun Watson

Today marks one of several milestones in Deshaun Watson‘s path to rejoining the Browns this season. The embattled quarterback is eligible to return to Cleveland’s facility today, per the terms of his ongoing suspension. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports that he is indeed present (Twitter link). 

Watson was originally banned for six games following the league’s investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct dating back to his time with the Texans. After the NFL appealed that decision, they and the NFLPA reached agreement on a settlement which saw the suspension upped to 11 games. In addition, Watson was issued a $5MM fine, and mandated to undergo counselling.

Beginning today, Watson can partake in a limited number of activities as he moves closer to a full return. That includes individual workouts and meetings with the coaching and medical staff. Group workouts, along with practices and games, as well as media availabilities, are still not an option for the 27-year-old at this point, however.

Most importantly, Watson is proceeding with the counselling which is conditional to his reinstatement after the suspension has been served. On that note, Pelissero’s colleague Ian Rapoport reports that Watson is “on track” with that requirement. Assuming that remains the case, the three-time Pro Bowler will be eligible to return when first possible, Cleveland’s Week 13 game against the Texans.

Given the fact that Watson sat out the entire 2021 campaign, that extended time off the field has led to questions about whether or not the Browns would start him immediately. Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com notes, however, that Watson will suit up right away, regardless of the performance of Jacoby Brissett. The latter – brought in to serve as an experienced bridge starter in Watson’s absence – has put up middling stats so far, as the Browns have begun the season 2-3.

Watson is also staying in playing shape despite being barred from team facilities, Rapoport and Cabot detail. He has maintained a schedule of private throwing sessions along the same timeline the Browns adhere to, working with his personal QB coach in the process. That further points to an immediate return to game action during the Texans matchup, the first game of a Browns tenure marked by his actions and subsequent suspension, of course, but also the team’s draft package (including three first-round picks) and unprecedented, fully guaranteed contract used to acquire him.

Watson is eligible to resume practicing with the team on November 14. His status as that point, along with the Browns’ record with Brissett, will remain worth watching.

Falcons Shopped Matt Ryan Before Deshaun Watson Decision; Team Expected To Land Watson

Matt Ryan trade buzz picked up in the days following Deshaun Watson‘s decision to waive his no-trade for the Browns, but the Falcons had begun discussing its 14-year quarterback with teams before Watson committed.

As the Falcons pursued Watson, they shopped Ryan, Zak Keefer of The Athletic reports (subscription required). This came as most among the Falcons assumed the embattled Texans quarterback “was theirs.” Watson is from Georgia and spent time as a Falcons ball boy as a child.

This gibes with what came out in March, when a report indicated Watson was speaking with free agents — Jarvis Landry and Leonard Fournette among them — about joining him in Atlanta. Jadeveon Clowney later said he would probably have signed with the Falcons had Watson chosen to waive his no-trade clause to be dealt to Atlanta. The Falcons were also competing with the Panthers and Saints for Watson, but on the night before the trade went down, the Falcons had expected to land the Pro Bowl quarterback. The Browns’ fully guaranteed $230MM contract — a price point that pushed the Falcons and Panthers to stand down — changed everything.

Prior to Watson’s Cleveland choice, Falcons assistant GM Ryan Smith contacted Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds regarding Ryan interest, Keefer adds, and Colts brass then watched every Ryan game from 2020-21 as they determined if he would be a fit. The Colts had agreed to trade Carson Wentz to the Commanders on March 9, leaving them without a clear-cut option for a stretch. They had also held discussions with Jameis Winston, with Baker Mayfield showing interest in Indianapolis. The Falcons and Colts agreed to terms on a Ryan trade — which sent a third-round pick to Atlanta for the former MVP — March 21.

Ryan, now 37, did his own homework on the Colts, calling Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers to gain intel on, respectively, the organization and Frank Reich‘s offense. Other teams were also interested in Ryan, per Keefer, but the Falcons wanted to send their longtime franchise cornerstone to a destination he preferred.

Despite Watson choosing the Browns as the Colts shopped Ryan, the Falcons stayed the course on a trade by continuing negotiations. On the Colts’ end, Jim Irsay, who had a few negative things to say about Wentz this offseason, instructed GM Chris Ballard to complete the trade. Shortly after the Falcons sent Ryan to the Colts, they signed ex-Arthur Smith Titans charge Marcus Mariota. While third-round pick Desmond Ridder should be expected to make starts for the rebuilding team this season, Mariota will begin the campaign as Atlanta’s starter.

The Colts, whose issues with Wentz began during the 2021 offseason, have been pleased with Ryan thus far. They are eyeing at least a two-year partnership. This would stop a revolving QB door for the Colts, who are about to the join the Broncos and Commanders in starting a different Week 1 QB in each of the past six seasons. Ryan’s contract, which handed the Falcons an NFL-record $40MM dead-money charge, has since been restructured. It checks in with $18.7MM (2022) and $35.2MM (’23) cap numbers.

Latest Following Deshaun Watson Settlement

The reactions have been plentiful concerning the settlement reached between the NFL and the NFLPA last month on the punishment for Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. The settlement came after the NFL decided to appeal the initial ruling from retired judge Sue Robinson of a six-game ban. Many thought the ban too lenient but the NFLPA threatened to take the matter to court if NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided to make the ban last for a full season. Thus, the two parties arrived at the negotiated settlement for an 11-game ban, a $5MM fine, and mandatory counseling. 

There is still one victim of Watson’s actions who, unlike the NFL, refuses to settle with the new Browns’ quarterback. Lauren Baxley is the only one out of 24 plaintiffs who refuses to settle with Watson. In a statement article released by TheDailyBeast.com, Baxley delineated what keeps her from signing the dotted line.

“I have rejected all settlement offers, in part because they have not included any sincere acknowledgment of remorse and wrongdoings,” Baxley explained. “Watson still refuses to admit that he harassed and committed indecent assault against me. Any settlement offer he has made has been a dismissal of his evil actions.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment. An NFL senior advisor offered similar remarks in an article by Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com. Rita Smith, a former 23-year executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence who now advises the NFL on matters of domestic violence and sexual assault, was disturbed by the heel-turn Watson made last month. Watson appeared to offer an apology to his accusers before the team’s preseason game on August 12, but, in a press conference about the settlement six days later, continued to remark on his own innocence in the matter, effectively wiping out any good will from what seemed to be an apology less than a week before. Smith told cleveland.com that she feels “like he’s playing us.”

Once again, this is not an uncommon sentiment. Reportedly, a high-ranking owner has become increasingly provoked by Watson’s lack of contrition, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe. Volin reports that one of the terms of the settlement was that Watson would “publicly show remorse” while Watson continues to “stand on [his] innocence.” Like Smith above, this owner also claims to “feel played by Watson.” The owner asserts that, should Watson continue not to show remorse, they may push for Goodell not to reinstate Watson at the conclusion of his 11-game ban.

The sentiment to push for a full-season ban is one not all owners share, though, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. According to King, some owners didn’t want Watson suspended for the full year. Instead, they preferred a suspension shorter than 17 games so that the Browns might be penalized for the fully-guaranteed structure of Watson’s contract. If Watson were to be suspended for all of the 2022 season, his contract would rollover one year, through the 2027 season. If Watson becomes eligible for some of the season, though, the Browns will owe him $40MM despite him only appearing in what is currently six games, and his contract will expire on time after the 2026 season.

All of this is yet to be seen. He may in the future show remorse, allowing him to settle with Baxley, the last remaining plaintiff, and endearing him to the league’s advisor on domestic violence and sexual assault. He may continue to stand on his innocence and provoke the NFL to extend his ban for not upholding the terms of the settlement.

For now, though, it appears that Watson has begun his league-mandated counseling, according to a more recent King article from NBC Sports. The hope seems to be that, through counseling, Watson will be able to understand “why he sought treatment from 66 massage therapists in 18 months;” that there’s a very real possibility that he did something wrong. While it may take years to reach any closure on the matter, Watson fulfilling the counseling mandate is as productive an action as we can hope to expect at this time.