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For the first time in two seasons, quarterback Deshaun Watson is scheduled to play in a regular season game on Sunday after serving an 11-game suspension over multiple claims of sexual misconduct.
The three-time Pro Bowler has not played in a regular season game since 2020. In August, the NFL and the NFL Players Association agreed to suspend him for 11 regular season games without pay and fined him $5 million after he was accused of sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women.
— Brandon Little (@BrandonLittleFB) November 28, 2022
CNN reports Watson has previously settled all but one of the sexual misconduct civil lawsuits against him. He has denied wrongdoing in those cases, and two grand juries have separately declined to indict him on criminal charges.
The 4-7 Browns will give Watson all the first-team reps this week in preparation for their road game against the Houston Texans on Sunday. It will be Watson’s first regular-season action in 700 days after he sat out the 2021 season in Houston.
After trading away Watson’s best wide receiver option, DeAndre Hopkins, in May 2020, Watson expressed frustration in having limited talent surrounding him in Houston. He was assured by team ownership that he would be involved in decisions moving forward, however, that did not happen.
Not only did Watson feel slighted on the field, but racially insensitive comments by Texans ownership also caused Watson to sour on the team he’d just signed a long-term deal with. “Reports about Deshaun Watson’s unhappiness with @HoustonTexans are accurate,” ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported. “Sources close to the QB say he is still angry about team’s insensitivity to social justice, including hiring practices, after the franchise failed to interview Chiefs OC Eric Bienemy this past week.”
Late Texans owner Bob McNair was a huge reason for the unsettled feeling, as he was at the forefront of owners raging against Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling for racial inequality, social injustice, and against police brutality.
After refusing to play for the Texans, Watson was eventually traded in a max-contract to the Cleveland Browns, where he has been preparing for his inevitable return.
“I have always stood on my innocence and am going to continue to stand on that, but at the same time I have to continue to push forward on my life and my career,” Watson said in a news conference in August.
As Watson eyes his return on Sunday against the very team which he refused to play for, both he and the Texans will leave their mutual frustrations on the field in search of a win which will represent much more.