After a 19-month absence from soccer, Deshaun Watson began an N.F.L. preseason recreation on Friday night time.
Before the sport started, the Cleveland Browns quarterback did one thing else that have been just about as lengthy coming: He apologized for the primary time since greater than two dozen girls mentioned he sexually assaulted or stressed them in therapeutic massage appointments.
As Watson took the sphere, met by means of boos from the sparse crowd at Jacksonville’s TIAA Bank Field, a league adviser used to be proceeding to weigh his eligibility for the approaching steady season.
The day ahead of each the sport and Watson’s apology, The Associated Press reported that Watson could be keen to just accept an eight-game suspension and a $5 million wonderful, after his representatives to start with argued for no ignored time.
“I want to say that I am truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson mentioned in an interview with the Browns broadcast workforce. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position, I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character.”
As the sport’s kickoff approached, there used to be rising stress about whether or not Watson’s get started would move forward as deliberate. Even with a regular-season suspension looming, he is in a position to take part in all practices and exhibition video games till his suspension starts within the season’s first week. But if the enchantment yielded the season-long ban that the league used to be pushing for, and if that call have been reached ahead of the sport, Watson would were right away excluded from all workforce actions and would have needed to follow for reinstatement on the finish of the season.
The enchantment is being heard by means of Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey lawyer basic, who used to be decided on by means of N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell final week to study the case and factor a choice on an “expedited” foundation. There isn’t any timetable for when that may occur.
The Browns had introduced Wednesday that Watson would get started Friday’s preseason opener. He appeared rusty, finishing handiest one among 5 passes in 3 offensive sequence ahead of being pulled, however his on-field efficiency used to be only a footnote.
On Aug. 1, Sue L. Robinson, a retired federal pass judgement on collectively appointed by means of the N.F.L. and the avid gamers union to supervise the disciplinary listening to, made up our minds that Watson had dedicated a couple of violations of the league’s non-public behavior coverage because of conduct she deemed “predatory” and “egregious.” Two days later, the league appealed, according to a brand new disciplinary procedure established as a part of the 2020 collective bargaining settlement.
In arguing for a full-season ban, in conjunction with a wonderful and counseling, the league expressed issues over Watson’s loss of regret, an element Robinson additionally cited in her choice.
Jimmy and Dee Haslam, the house owners of the Browns, expressed give a boost to for Watson in a commentary final week and mentioned that he have been “remorseful.” Watson’s feedback ahead of Friday’s recreation have been the primary time he had publicly expressed contrition for his movements.
Watson had in the past denied the accusations, telling journalists at a information convention in June that he regretted their have an effect on on his teammates and the folks round him. Watson settled 23 of the proceedings filed towards him by means of girls who mentioned he assaulted or stressed them all the way through therapeutic massage appointments, and two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on felony fees.
Watson’s suspension is about to start out the week of the Browns’ first regular-season recreation, Sept. 11 towards the Carolina Panthers.
He has no longer performed in a recreation, both steady season or exhibition, since Jan. 3, 2021, when he used to be nonetheless a member of the Houston Texans. He asked a business that month, and in March 2021 the primary lawsuit used to be filed towards him. Though Watson used to be eligible to play, he sat out the 2021 N.F.L. season.
The Browns traded for Watson this spring after a grand jury in Texas declined to indict him. The workforce despatched a couple of most sensible draft selections to Houston and signed Watson to a five-year, absolutely assured $230 million contract.