In a first interview in nearly four months, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson declined to answer any non-football related questions.
“I understand you have a lot of questions,” Watson said Thursday. “But with my legal team and my clinical team, there are only football questions I can really answer at the moment. »
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 are still pending, including one filed on October 13. Earlier this year, Watson settled 23 of the other lawsuits that had been filed against him.
As part of a settlement between the NFL and the National Players Association (NFLPA), Watson also had to pay a $5 million fine and undergo a mandatory treatment program.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to play football in 2022,” he said when asked why he accepted the 11-game suspension. “As far as the agreements with the NFL were concerned, it was mainly my agency and my legal team who took care of it. I had no control. My main goal was to do 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 final interview in August, Watson again denied any wrongdoing and said people weren’t interested in hearing his side of the story. When asked Thursday if he’s still interested in telling his story at some point, Watson replied, “who knows what the future holds.”
Watson also declined to say what, if anything, he learned from the league-mandated consultation.
“I was advised to stay out of it and keep it personal. […] I focus on football. I’m focused on football and preparing to be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns so I can execute the game plan to try and get a win this Sunday. »
Watson’s return against his former team, the Houston Texans, will come exactly 700 days since he last appeared in a regular season game (with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021).
The Browns secured Watson’s services in a trade in March, sending the Texans three first-round picks. Cleveland then offered Watson a five-year contract with a guaranteed value of $230 million, the biggest 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 planned to attend Sunday’s game with him.
“They thought it was important to make it clear that they’re still here and they matter,” Tony Buzbee said.
Watson said he’s “not worried” about the atmosphere in Houston.
“Like I said, my focus is on being the starting quarterback and executing the game plan,” he said. “That’s my main concern. »