Watson’s focus on football, deflects other queries
BEREA, Ohio — In Deshaun Watson‘s first interview in nearly four months, the Cleveland Browns quarterback refused to answer any non-football questions.
“I understand that you guys have a lot of questions,” Watson said Thursday. “But with my legal team and my clinical team, there’s only football questions I can really address at this time.”
Watson just finished serving an 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the NFL, on massage therapists.
He has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
Two civil lawsuits remain outstanding, including one filed on Oct. 13. Earlier this year, Watson settled 23 of the other civil lawsuits that had been filed against him.
As part of a settlement between the NFL and NFLPA, Watson also had to pay a $5 million fine and undergo a mandatory treatment program.
“I was just trying whatever I could do to play football in 2022,” when asked why he agreed to the 11-game suspension. “Most of the settlement stuff with the NFL was mostly my agency and legal team. I had no control. My main focus was doing everything I needed to do to play this year.”
Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year.
In his last interview in August, Watson again denied any wrongdoing and said people hadn’t been interested in hearing his side of the story. When asked Thursday if he’s still interested in telling his story at some point, Watson said, “who knows what the future holds.”
Watson also declined to say what if anything he’d learned from the league-mandated counseling.
“That’s more in that phase of clinical and legal stuff,” he said. “I’ve been advised to stay away from that and keep that personal. … I’m focusing on football. That’s my main focus is football and preparing to be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns so I can execute the game plan to try to get a win this Sunday.”
Watson’s return against his former team, the Houston Texans, will mark exactly 700 days since he last played in a regular-season game (with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021).
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending the Texans three first-round draft picks. Cleveland then signed Watson to a five-year deal worth $230 million guaranteed, the richest contract in NFL history.
Earlier this week, Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represented 25 of the women who filed civil lawsuits against Watson, said about 10 of his clients were planning to attend Sunday’s game with him.
“They thought it important to make clear that they are still here and that they matter,” Buzbee said.
Watson said he’s “not worried” about the atmosphere he will encounter in Houston.
“Like I said, I’m focusing on just being the starting quarterback and executing the game plan,” he said. “That’s my main focus.”