BEREA, Ohio — Quarterback Deshaun Watson is set to rejoin the Cleveland Browns on the practice field this week.
Since Oct. 10, Watson has been allowed to participate in team meetings and work out at the Browns’ training facility. But now he will be permitted to practice with the team for the first time since training camp. The Browns are next scheduled to practice again Wednesday.
Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault on massage therapists, as defined by the NFL. He’ll continue to serve an 11-game suspension.
Watson will ramp up for his Browns debut Dec. 4 in a game against his former team, the Houston Texans.
“We’ll have a plan for him to start getting ready,” coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday.
The NFL and NFL Players Association reached a settlement on Watson’s 11-game suspension Aug. 18 after he was accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and misconduct during massage sessions. Watson was also fined $5 million and required to undergo a treatment program.
Jacoby Brissett has filled in at quarterback during Watson’s suspension. General manager Andrew Berry recently reiterated that Watson would replace Brissett as Cleveland’s starter once he’s eligible to return. But Stefanski said getting Brissett ready to play will remain Cleveland’s priority in practice until then.
“Whatever we do with Deshaun won’t take away from Jacoby’s preparation,” Stefanski said.
Over the summer, Watson agreed to settle 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him. A 25th lawsuit was dropped by the plaintiff when the judge ruled her petition had to be amended with her name. Two other women filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him.
On Oct. 13, another woman filed a lawsuit against Watson, claiming he pressured her into oral sex during a massage session in 2020. Two weeks later, Watson’s attorneys filed a series of court exhibits as evidence to undermine the allegation.
Two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges against Watson earlier this year. But Sue L. Robinson, an independent arbiter jointly appointed by the league and players’ union, found that “the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault.” Robinson also concluded in her report that Watson’s behavior was “egregious” and “predatory.”
Watson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said that people haven’t been interested in hearing his side of the story. He hasn’t spoken publicly since his suspension was announced.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending the Texans three first-round draft picks. Cleveland also signed Watson to a five-year deal worth $230 million guaranteed, the richest contract in NFL history.
Watson hasn’t played in a regular-season game since 2020, sitting out all of last year in Houston while waiting for a trade.
The Browns (3-6) face the Buffalo Bills this weekend, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before Watson’s return. On the heels of Cleveland’s 39-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Browns just a 4.5% chance to make the playoffs.