FLORIDA’S JACKSONVILLE Deshaun Watson, the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, apologized to the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions in public for the first time on Friday.
In an internal interview for the Browns’ pregame program that aired on Cleveland News 5, Watson said, “I want to say that I’m sincerely sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this circumstance.”
Prior to Friday night’s preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, which Watson started, an interview was conducted.
Prior to Friday, Watson had stated in his only two press conferences since switching from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns that he had “no regrets” about any of the things he did during the massage sessions. Watson reaffirmed that he had no remorse about his behavior in his second interview at Cleveland’s minicamp in June, but he did acknowledge that he regretted the effect the claims had on those close to him.
Friday, he made a different indication.
Deshaun Watson, asked if he has any regrets: "I don't have any regrets. Like I said, the things off the field right now that came up caught me by surprise because I never did anything that these people are alleging."pic.twitter.com/3i87t1yCjo
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) March 25, 2022
The Browns’ pregame show included him saying, “The decisions I made in my life that placed me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to go forward, grow, and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep moving forward.”
Watson and the Browns are awaiting word on whether his six-game suspension for breaching the league’s personal conduct policy will be increased. Robinson, an impartial arbiter, imposed the punishment on Watson last week.
The NFL challenged Robinson’s decision in an effort to get a harsher punishment, and Peter C. Harvey, a former attorney general of New Jersey nominated by commissioner Roger Goodell, will hear the case. Harvey does not have a timetable to decide the appeal, but the collective bargaining agreement requires him to do so on an “expedited” basis.
Deshaun spoke with Aditi Kinkhabwala ahead of starting tonight's game in Jacksonville. pic.twitter.com/9kuHxI9ULh
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 12, 2022
Watson’s “lack of apparent regret” was cited by Robinson as aggravating in her 16-page assessment, which determined that Watson breached the personal conduct standard by “egregious” and “predatory” actions.
In civil cases brought by 25 women, Watson has been charged with sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage sessions. The interactions that are the subject of the complaints allegedly occurred between March 2020 and March 2021 when Watson was a player for the Texans.
In March 2022, the Browns acquired Watson in a trade with Houston in exchange for three first-round draught picks and a new, fully-guaranteed contract for $230 million.
After a judge ruled in April 2021 that the plaintiffs needed to alter their applications to divulge their names, one of the 25 claims was dismissed. Although they did not sue Watson, two additional women lodged criminal complaints against him.
With the exception of one complaint, which is still active, Watson has settled or agreed to settle all of the other lawsuits. The Texans reached agreements with 30 women who had filed lawsuits against the NFL organization for allegedly “supporting” Watson’s behavior in July.
Watson’s first game with the Texans since January 3, 2021, was on Friday. He declared that he was “very thrilled” to play in the pregame interview.
I don’t know when the next time I’ll be able to be out there with those guys, so I want to make sure I treasure each and every snap, he said.
Before being pulled in Cleveland’s 24-13 victory, Watson had a lackluster debut, completing just 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards over the course of three series. Watson declined to remark or elaborate on his pregame interview when contacted during the postgame locker room session that was open to reporters. Watson was not made available for the Browns’ postgame news conferences.
In future practices, according to Browns coach Kevin Stefanski, quarterback Jacoby Brissett will outperform Watson with the first-team offense by a “majority.”
During the pregame interview, Watson was questioned about how he planned to use his time away from the team to advance personally.
When the opportunity arises to return to the field, he added, “I know I have a lot of effort to put in, especially on the field to be able to make sure I’m ready to play whenever that time comes.”
“The most important thing, though, is that I want to keep going to counseling and make sure that I’m developing personally so that I can make better decisions both on and off the field. In the Cleveland community, the NFL community, and beyond, I want to make sure that I’m just evolving in the community as much as I can.”