AP

Watson starting Browns’ preseason opener as suspension looms

Aug 10, 2022, 1:40 AM | Updated: 2:47 pm

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson runs during an NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio, Su...

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson runs during an NFL football practice in Berea, Ohio, Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

(AP Photo/David Dermer)

CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson’s debut for the Browns is tentative and subject to change.

The same is true for his first season in Cleveland.

Watson is scheduled to start the exhibition opener — his first game action since 2020 — at Jacksonville on Friday while the quarterback waits to see if the NFL succeeds in keeping him off the field for the entire season.

The three-time Pro Bowler is facing a potential year-long suspension and fine from the league for alleged sexual misconduct against two dozen women while he played for the Houston Texans.

Last week, an independent arbitrator suspended Watson for six games, but the league wasn’t satisfied with the decision, appealed and is h oping for a much lengthier punishment as well as a significant fine and that he undergo treatment before being considered for reinstatement.

That decision is expected soon.

In the meantime, the Browns are planning to see Watson play in a game. They’re not sure when they might get to again.

For now, Watson’s scheduled appearance against the Jaguars will be his first in a game since Jan. 3, 2021, his final one with the Texans.

The 26-year-old Watson sat out last season after demanding a trade and before he was accused of assault and harassment by the women during massage therapy sessions he scheduled on Instagram.

Watson has denied any wrongdoing. Two separate grand juries in Texas declined to indict him and he settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits.

The Browns decided to move on from 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, traded three first-round picks to the Texans and signed Watson to a five-year, $230 million contract in March despite his legal entanglement.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski plans to play Watson and “most” of Cleveland’s starters against the Jaguars. The team did not get any more specific about Stefanski’s plans before flying to Florida.

Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said Wednesday that quarterback Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville starters will play “a couple series.”

Of course, it’s still possible Watson won’t play against the Jaguars.

Watson and the Browns thought he would only miss six games after league disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, a retired federal judge ruled the quarterback violated the league’s personal conduct policy. She also mandated that he schedule future massages to only team-approved therapists for the rest of his career.

However, the league, which has been pushing for an indefinite suspension and fine, felt Robinson’s penalty was too light and appealed on Aug. 3.

Watson’s playing future is now being decided by Peter C. Harvey, appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeal. Harvey’s a former New Jersey Attorney General who has arbitrated other league cases and is a member of the NFL’s Diversity Advisory Committee.

There is no timeframe on a decision from Harvey.

At the owner’s meetings on Tuesday, Goodell said the league’s appeal was warranted based on the league’s own investigation and Robinson’s ruling.

“Because we’ve seen the evidence,” Goodell told reporters. “She was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there was multiple violations here and they were egregious, and that it was predatory behavior.”

Robinson found that the league proved its case that Watson violated three provisions of the conduct policy: sexual assault as defined by the NFL, posing a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another and undermining or putting at the league’s integrity at risk.

Watson has taken most of the snaps during training camp. The Browns have planned to start veteran Jacoby Brissett while Watson is out, but the team could explore bringing in anther QB if Watson is suspended for double-digit games or longer.

Stefanski had the Browns travel two days early for their preseason opener because he has undisclosed team bonding activities planned.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Ex-Packer Guion gets 1 year for domestic violence assault

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Former Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Letroy Guion was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest in a domestic violence assault at his home last fall. Brown County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Walsh also ordered Guion on Tuesday to serve three years’ probation and complete a domestic […]

1 year ago

Joe Jarzynka...

Associated Press

Durant eager for Suns debut vs. Hornets after knee injury

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Durant has been through quite a bit during his 15-year NBA career — but joining a new team midway through the season is a new one for the 13-time All-Star. The 34-year-old Durant doesn’t seem all that worried. Durant makes his highly anticipated Phoenix Suns debut on Wednesday night against […]

1 year ago

FILE - Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores stands on the sideline during the second half of an N...

Associated Press

Judge: NFL coach can press discrimination claims in court

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Coach Brian Flores can pursue some of his discrimination claims against the league and its teams in court rather than through arbitration, a judge ruled Wednesday. The written decision by Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan was issued months after lawyers for the league tried to get the lawsuit moved to […]

1 year ago

Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Alex Stalock cools off in the first period during an NHL hockey game ...

Associated Press

Kane trade reinforces hard reality of Blackhawks rebuild

CHICAGO (AP) — After days of speculation, the harsh reality of the Chicago Blackhawks’ situation was reinforced by one move in a flurry of transactions ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Showtime is over, at least in Chicago, and a seemingly bright future is, well, way off in the distance. The reverberations of Chicago’s decision […]

1 year ago

FILE -  Yves Jean-Bart, president of the Haitian Football Federation, wearing a protective face mas...

Associated Press

Disgraced ex-Haitian soccer president announces he’s back

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s former soccer federation president whose lifetime ban from sport over sexual abuse allegations was overturned last month announced Wednesday that he is reclaiming his position. Yves Jean-Bart’s defiant announcement could lead to a standoff with FIFA, which already has appointed an emergency management committee to lead the Haitian Football Association […]

1 year ago

FILE - Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers walks off the field after an NFL football game against the ...

Associated Press

Rodgers says decision on future will come ‘soon enough’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers says he will make a decision on his future “soon enough” as the four-time MVP quarterback ponders whether to play next season and if his future remains with the Green Bay Packers. Rodgers, 39, discussed his future while speaking on an episode of the “Aubrey Marcus Podcast” that […]

1 year ago

Watson starting Browns’ preseason opener as suspension looms