BEREA, Ohio – Deshaun Watson did not speak on Wednesday as scheduled.
Instead, speaking for him, Watson’s teammates have praised his talent and admitted there’s been a buzz in the Cleveland Browns locker room this week ahead of Watson’s return to the field from his lengthy suspension.
“We’re all excited,” said Browns running back Nick Chubb. “We’ve waited a long time for him to come back.”
Watson just served 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 also had to pay a $5 million fine and undergo a mandatory treatment program.
Watson’s return on Sunday against this 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).
Watson has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Over the summer, he agreed to settle 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him. A 25th lawsuit was filed by the plaintiff when the judge ruled that his petition should be amended with his name on it. Two other women filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him. On October 13, another woman filed a lawsuit against Watson, alleging that he pressured her into performing oral sex during a massage session in 2020.
Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year. In the past, Watson has denied any wrongdoing and said people weren’t interested in hearing his side of the story.
He has yet to speak publicly since his suspension was announced in August.
Watson has attended team meetings and worked at the team’s training facility since Oct. 10 and has been able to practice with the Browns since Nov. 16.
“He’s special – he’s a playmaker,” said Chubb, when asked how Watson has been in training recently. “He puts the ball exactly where he needs it. Guys like that. Guys get excited.”
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending the Texans three first-round picks. Cleveland then signed Watson to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million, the richest contract in NFL history.
Backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett filled in for the 11 games Watson was suspended. The Browns officially added Watson to their 53-man roster on Monday and released quarterback Josh Dobbs in a corresponding move.
“He’s a great player,” Browns cornerback Denzel Ward said of Watson. “You can’t go wrong with great players.”
Cleveland’s record is 4-7 and the team is coming off of Sunday’s overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which kept their slim playoff hopes alive.
“There’s excitement for sure,” Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said of Watson’s return. “We know what he can do with what we’ve seen so far. So looking forward to seeing him [play]🇧🇷