Deshaun Watson returns from suspension, refuses to express remorse

HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson signed autographs, posed for selfies and defied boos for a sloppy win.

Once again, he refused to express remorse for the actions that got him suspended for 11 games.

Returning to his hometown for his first game in 700 days, Watson showed plenty of rest in his Cleveland debut, but the Browns didn’t need much from him in their 27-14 victory Sunday at the Houston Texans.

After signing jerseys for Texans and Browns fans and posing for photos with more before the game, Watson was booed early on. During the first half and most of the afternoon, he heard jeers before every shot.

“They should boo. I’m on the Cleveland Browns now,” Watson said.

Watson has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual harassment and assault during massage sessions. He has settled 23 civil lawsuits brought by the women, while two others, including one filed in October, are still pending.

Asked whether he felt remorse for his actions upon his return to Houston, Watson said his legal team told him not to answer questions about his suspension.

“Of course, it’s a tough situation,” he said. “The suspension was tough but at the same time, as a footballer, my main focus today was just trying to get a 1-0 result.”

Pressed further, Watson said: “I’m just happy to be back on the court today. I did everything I was asked to do, everything I was asked to do. I did it all.”

Watson had several supporters in the stands ahead of the game, while a group of women Those who have accused him of sexual misconduct also plan to attend. An attorney representing the women, Tony Buzbee, did not respond to text messages seeking confirmation of their attendance. About 10 women wanted to attend, he said earlier this week, “to make a statement, ‘Hey, we’re still here. We’re important.'”

A fan walked into NRG Stadium wearing a derogatory brown shirt that read “I need a massage.” He was joined by a fan wearing Watson’s No. 4 Browns jerseys.

Fans in the parking lot set up a fake massage table featuring a mannequin wearing a red Texans jersey and a towel.

The handful of fans in their seats booed as Watson and the Browns jogged onto the field about an hour before kickoff.

“That’s it,” Watson said of the boos. “I can’t control the behavior of the fans. My job is to go out and perform.”

He’s not doing too well.

Watson completed 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and one interception. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback posted the worst passer grade of his NFL career at 53.4. The Browns (5-7) scored two defensive touchdowns and a special teams score to beat the Texans (1-10-1).

After an interception gave the Browns possession for the first time in their 43, Watson threw two incomplete passes. He turned away from the sack on the third down, and fans cheered when his throw to David Bell landed.

Watson’s first completed pass on his third attempt resulted in a turnover when Anthony Schwartz fumbled after a 12-yard gain. Watson later took the Browns to Houston at No. 11 before throwing a pick in the end zone.

“We don’t want him to be Superman after he hasn’t played in two years,” All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said.

Watson sat out the 2021 season after demanding a trade from Houston. After two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on sexual harassment and assault charges, the Browns traded several draft picks for Watson and then signed him to a fully guaranteed $235 million contract.

During warmups, Watson signed jerseys for fans behind the end zone. An 18-year-old man from East Texas got Watson’s autograph on his Browns jersey. A couple from Houston wore Texans jerseys that also had Watson’s signature on them.

“We really don’t know what’s going on and everyone deserves a second chance,” Sherry Holden said, explaining her support.

Several Browns fans said they didn’t feel comfortable rooting for Watson.

“I cheered for the jersey and the team, but it was hard to accept him as my quarterback,” said Brandon Collins, who traveled from Ohio State for the game.

The NFL wanted to suspend Watson for at least one season, but settled for 11 games after an independent arbitrator initially handed him a six-game suspension. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell pointed to former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson for calling Watson’s conduct “appalling” and “predatory” in seeking a full suspension.

Watson was also fined $5 million and ordered to receive professional counseling and treatment. Watson maintained his innocence but also apologized to the women he affected,

The Browns won 4-7, with veteran Jacoby Brissett replacing Watson.

Coach Kevin Stefanski has committed to starting Watson next week, emphasizing that he’s going to finish Game 1.

“He looked very sharp in practice and he was excited for the next game, so he knew this time it was going to be different,” Stefanski said.


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