Sources: QB Watson shows ‘progress’ in program
11: 00 PM ET
Adam SchefterESPN Senior Writer
- ESPN NFL Insider
- Joined ESPN in 2009
- Former president of the Pro Football Writers of America and the author of four books
As part of the conditions that enabled Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson to be reinstated and be able to play Sunday against the Houston Texans, he has made what NFL and NFLPA experts have described as “signs of progress” during his mandatory treatment program, per league sources.
Though his 11-game suspension is now over, Watson is expected to remain in his treatment program with no end date in sight at this time, sources told ESPN.
“He has been making good progress and he wants it to continue, and they feel that it’s helping,” a source close to Watson’s treatment program said. It’s ongoing as needed, and it will continue until it’s no longer needed. It’s been a great help and support. This could take some time. The program is confidential and Watson did not disclose details about his treatment last week. He did not address his treatment at his news conference last week, as he was preparing to return to play. However, one source said that Watson’s “clinician” told him that he should not comment on his treatment program, and that he is not allowed to discuss his legal situation. “
Watson was removed from the team for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. He had committed sexual assault on massage therapists, as defined by NFL. He was also fined $5million and must now take part in the mandatory treatment program, which sources believe has helped him. Watson was accused by more than 20 women of sexual assault and other inappropriately sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Over the summer, Watson agreed to settle 23 of the 24 lawsuits against him. A 25th lawsuit was dropped by the plaintiff when the judge ruled that her petition had to be amended with her name. A 26th civil suit was filed on Oct. 13, 2022. Watson was also sued by two other women who filed criminal complaints against him.
Watson was not charged criminally and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. He also stated that people haven’t been interested to hear his side of the story. He declined to go into any questions outside of football this past week, and now his Browns debut will come exactly 700 days since he last played in a regular-season game with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021.
Some believe the NFL intentionally suspended Watson 11 games so that his return could come in Houston, which could provide increased TV ratings. This game will be broadcast to 7% of the country with Jay Feely calling it and Jay Dedes as play-by-play announcers.
The Browns traded Watson to the Texans in March. They sent three draft picks in the first round. Cleveland also signed Watson to a five-year deal worth $230 million guaranteed, the richest contract in NFL history.
Watson returned to participate in practice with the Browns on Nov. 16 and has been allowed to sit in on team meetings and work out at the team’s training facility since Oct. 10. He will become the sixth quarterback in the past 15 seasons to make his debut against the team he last played for, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the third to do it this season, joining Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson.
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.