Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, center, along with General Manager Andrew Berry, left, and head coach Kevin Stefanski, right, field questions from reporters during Watson's introductory press conference at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility in Berea.

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Reports: Deshaun Watson’s hearing will continue Wednesday

The disciplinary hearing for Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson began Tuesday and is expected to resume Wednesday, multiple media outlets reported.

It is unclear how long the proceeding will last or when a ruling will be rendered by Sue L. Robinson, a former U.S. District Court judge who was jointly selected to oversee the case by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.

Watson, 26, has been accused of sexual misconduct during massage sessions that occurred during his time with his former team, the Houston Texans. Twenty-five women have accused him of actions ranging from sexual assault to inappropriate behavior.

Watson, who has denied wrongdoing, has settled 20 of 24 civil lawsuits related to the massage sessions. The Texans organization is also being sued for “enabling” his actions, in part by allegedly providing him with non-disclosure agreements to give to massage therapists.

Per numerous media reports, the NFL is pushing to have him suspended indefinitely, with the minimum length of the punishment one year before he would be eligible to apply for reinstatement.

The Texans held Watson out of action for the entire 2021 season as he was under investigation for criminal wrongdoing. However, he was never indicted, and the Browns acquired him in a March trade, giving up three first-round draft picks.

Cleveland also signed Watson to a five-year contract that will pay him a guaranteed $230 million. However, his salary for 2022 reportedly is just $1 million to protect against the possibility that he could be facing a lengthy suspension.

–Field Level Media

Jun 14, 2022; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks to the media after minicamp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Browns QB Deshaun Watson scheduled for disciplinary hearing on Tuesday

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is scheduled to have a hearing with disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson on Tuesday, ESPN reported Saturday.

The hearing will center on the 26 women who accused Watson of unwanted advances and inappropriate sexual conduct during massage appointments during his time with the Houston Texas.

Robinson was jointly appointed by the NFL and NFL Players Association.

The NFL is expected to push for a lengthy suspension of Watson, whose representatives have settled 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits filed against Watson.

The NFLPA will defend Watson during the hearing.

Robinson spent more than 25 years (1991-2017) as a member of Delaware’s district court.

After Robinson makes a ruling, Watson will have the option to appeal any punishment.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell could rule on Watson’s appeal or allow an independent arbitrator to make a decision.

Watson has denied the accusations on multiple occasions.

The Browns acquired Watson from the Texans in a trade in March and gave him $230 million in guaranteed money on a five-year deal. Watson didn’t play in 2021 after requesting to be traded from the Texans.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson listens to questions during his introductory press conference at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility on Friday.

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Browns QB Deshaun Watson, NFL talks begin

Before he travels to the Bahamas to work out with new teammates, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson met with NFL investigators on Tuesday to discuss his legal matters with lead investigator Lisa Friel, ESPN reported.

Friel conducts investigations for the NFL on matters related to the personal conduct policy and, when violations are found, helps mete out punishment. Watson can be fined or suspended if the NFL rules that he violated the league policy on personal conduct.

Two grand juries in Texas did not indict Watson, who still faces 22 civil lawsuits around allegations of sexual misconduct with women who claim they met the quarterback while providing professional massage services.

The Athletic reported the NFL has interviewed multiple women involved in the civil case.

Players who were not convicted of crimes have still faced fines and suspensions under the same policy, including retired Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. In 2010, Roethlisberger was not indicted on sexual assault charges in Georgia, but the NFL investigated and determined he would be suspended six games without pay. A 20-year-old college student accused Roethlisberger of wrongdoing following an incident in a bar bathroom.

Upon appeal, Roethlisberger’s suspension was reduced to four games, but commissioner Roger Goodell made clear his actions warranted punishment.

“My decision today is not based on a finding that you violated Georgia law, or on a conclusion that differs from that of the local prosecutor,” Goodell wrote in a letter to Roethlisberger. “That said, you are held to a higher standard as an NFL player, and there is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans.”

Watson said at his introductory press conference with the Browns, who signed him to a $230 million contract, that the claims were unfounded.

But in a pre-trial deposition last week, Watson admitted at least one massage therapist left their session in tears and he sent her an apology, according to attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women.

Buzbee previously shared the message in question.

“Sorry about you feeling uncomfortable,” he wrote, according to the screenshot from plaintiff lawyers. “Never were the intentions. Lmk if you want to work in the future. My apologies.”

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson, center, poses for a portrait with general manager Andrew Berry, left, and head coach Kevin Stefanski during Watson's introductory press conference at the Cleveland Browns Training Facility on Friday.

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Deshaun Watson to hit Bahamas with teammates, visit with NFL

Deshaun Watson is hitting the beach with a number of new teammates in the Bahamas this week while the NFL plans to question the new Cleveland Browns quarterback in the near future, according to reports.

USA Today reported Watson was scheduled to talk in Texas to NFL investigators attempting to complete their probe into Watson’s alleged indecency with a number of former female massage therapists. Though a grand jury did not indict Watson in Texas, a civil matter into his alleged sexual misconduct has not been resolved with the 22 women.

Watson was acquired by the Browns from the Houston Texans, who allowed their franchise quarterback to be a gameday inactive amidst a trade demand in 2021. He did not play in a game, nor was he active, under coach David Culley. Culley was fired after the season and replaced by Lovie Smith.

Watson signed a $230 million extension and said last month he is planning to participate in the team’s minicamp, scheduled to begin May 24.

The Browns also added wide receiver Amari Cooper in a trade with the Dallas Cowboys and drafted slot wide receiver David Bell in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Watson obviously has not played with running back Nick Chubb, tight ends David Njoku and Harrison Bryant, or wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones.

CBS Sports and ESPN reported Watson was expected to huddle primarily with the playmakers on the roster.

–Field Level Media

Mar 25, 2022; Berea, OH, USA;  Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with the media during a press conference at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Roger Goodell: Exempt list not in play for Deshaun Watson

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is not likely to be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list while his civil-court accusations of sexual misconduct are resolved.

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, did not indict Watson earlier this month, dismissing nine criminal complaints based on a lack of enough evidence. Watson still faces accusations by 22 women in civil court.

Before his trade to the Browns, Watson was inactive for all 17 of the Houston Texans’ games in 2021. He had demanded a trade before the accusations against him became public, the Texans chose not to suspend him and Goodell declined to put him on the commissioner’s exempt list, a tool within the personal conduct policy which essentially places a player on paid administrative leave.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at NFL annual meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., Goodell said the resolution of Watson’s situation on the criminal side meant he would not use the exempt list in 2022, just as he hadn’t in 2021.

“I think we were very clear over the last year that the civil cases were in play over the last year were also — the only thing that’s changed is the criminal element has been at least resolved,” Goodell said. “And that was an important element in the context of the commissioner’s exempt (list) that we’ve discussed with our players association. That was important. If the criminal had proceeded, that would more likely have triggered the commissioner’s exempt. I think at this point, a civil case in and of itself would not do that.

“If there’s a violation of the personal conduct policy, that may trigger something, but that would more likely trigger some kind of discipline in some fashion.”

The contract extension Watson signed with the Browns appears to prepare for the likelihood that he’ll miss some part of 2022 serving a suspension. Though he signed for a record $230 million guaranteed, his base salary in 2022 — the figure that would be affected by a suspension or fine — is only $1 million.

–Field Level Media

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) walks off the field following an interception during the first half of an NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium, Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021, in Cleveland, Ohio. [Jeff Lange/Beacon Journal]

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Baker Mayfield hints at goodbye in letter to Cleveland

Baker Mayfield ended his social-media silence Tuesday night to write an open letter to Cleveland Browns fans with language that sounded much like a goodbye note.

The letter came on the same day that Browns executives flew to Houston to meet with quarterback Deshaun Watson in hopes of luring him to Cleveland.

Mayfield, 26, has spent four seasons with the Browns since being selected No. 1 overall in 2018 out of Oklahoma. He prefaced his note by saying, “With many uncertainties, here is where my head and heart is.”

He attached the following letter:

“Cleveland,

“The past 4 years have been nothing short of truly life changing since I heard my name called in the draft to go to Cleveland. This is not a message with hidden meaning. This is strictly to thank the city of Cleveland for embracing my family and me. We have made many memories and shared growing in this process through all the ups and downs. I have no clue what happens next, which is the meaning behind the silence I have had during the duration of this process. I can only control what I can, which is trusting in God’s plan throughout this process.

“I have given this franchise everything I have. That is something I’ve always done at every stage, and at every level. And that will not change wherever I take my next snap. Whatever happens… I just want to say thank you to the fans who truly embraced who I am and the mentality that aligned so well with this city’s hard working people. Cleveland will always be a part of Emily and my story. And we will always be thankful for the impact it has had and will have in our lives.

“Sincerely,

“Baker Reagan Mayfield.”

If Mayfield is traded, he reportedly would prefer to go to the Indianapolis Colts. He has posted a 29-30 record in four seasons with the Browns, during which he has passed for 14,125 yards, 92 touchdowns and 56 interceptions. He also has rushed for 571 yards and five touchdowns.

Watson is not guaranteed to land with the Browns. Other teams such as the New Orleans Saints are considered to have a strong chance to acquire him.

However, according to Cleveland.com, the Browns could look to trade Mayfield either way “because of the awkward nature of returning to a team that tried to replace him.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 29, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to the sidelines for the last play before throwing a Hail Mary pass against the Carolina Panthers late in the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Deshaun Watson permitted to meet Saints, Panthers

Cleared of criminal wrongdoing, Deshaun Watson received the green light to meet with two quarterback-needy teams interested in acquiring him from the Houston Texans.

According to multiple reports, Watson is scheduled to meet with the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers in the next 48 hours.

Houston’s trade demands include multiple first-round picks or veterans of equal value, but the Texans also must overcome the constraints of Watson’s full no-trade clause.

Watson played collegiately at Clemson and is reportedly the top target of Panthers owner Dave Tepper. The Saints are also in the mix, but fitting Watson’s contract under the salary cap could be a challenge for New Orleans.

A fresh start is coveted by Watson, who did not play last season after demanding a trade. He was inactive every week, with the potential for criminal charges hanging over his head as more than 20 women accused him of sexual misconduct. He could face discipline from the NFL even without a conviction with precedent in noteworthy cases including the six-game ban Ben Roethlisberger received in 2010.

Watson, 26, remains the subject of civil lawsuits despite the grand jury’s decision Friday in Harris County, Texas, declining to indict him on nine criminal complaints.

“I’m just going to keep fighting to rebuild my name and rebuild my appearance in the community, and on the legal side handle what we need to handle. But also ready to get on the field, and prep for that,” Watson said Friday.

Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly has said only that the NFL is closely monitoring the events related to the Watson case while conducting its own investigation.

Watson passed for a career-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2020 following a landmark contract extension with the Texans worth $156 million over four years. That deal has yet to kick in as Watson had two years to go on his rookie contract, including a fifth-year option standard for first-round picks.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) rolls out of the pocket against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Watson Watch: Panthers, Seahawks expected to make offers for Texans QB

Deshaun Watson demanded a trade more than 13 months ago, and his days with the Houston Texans appear to be numbered.

The Carolina Panthers and Detroit Lions are among quarterback-needy teams pushing to the front of the line with trade offers to acquire Watson. The Panthers, per reports, are operating under orders from owner David Tepper to do what it takes to land Watson.

Watson, who learned Friday he would not face criminal charges for sexual misconduct related to claims from 22 women of wrongdoing, vowed not to play for the franchise in January 2021. He was inactive for all 17 regular-season games last season.

The Texans fired head coach David Culley after one season and promoted Lovie Smith to the role, but Houston’s position established by general manager Nick Caserio hasn’t changed: the franchise will deal Watson if it helps Houston.

Caserio hasn’t confirmed the asking price includes multiple first-round draft picks and additional assets — either draft capital or NFL players — but multiple reports Friday said the Texans have not shifted from their original ask of suitors.

The Panthers and Lions have veteran quarterbacks under contract they acquired in trades last offseason who could be included in any deal, and each team owns a pick in the top 10 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

ESPN reported the Panthers’ offer would be “aggressive” and the team is “all in” on a Watson deal.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported the Seahawks are “in the mix” for Watson after trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos.

Other teams who could push for Watson include the Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

The Colts are unlikely to be a match with Caserio given they share a division with the Texans. Indianapolis is pursuing what will be the team’s sixth Week 1 starter in six years after trading Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders.

Cleveland is at a crossroads with Baker Mayfield as the Browns decide whether to commit with a long-term contract, but general manager Andrew Berry reportedly has been engaged with the Texans and agreed to another trade for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper.

Tom Brady’s retirement in February puts the Buccaneers in uncertain territory. Head coach Bruce Arians said second-year quarterback Kyle Trask could start in 2022, but also mentioned veteran journeyman Blaine Gabbert — Brady’s backup last season — as a possibility.

New Orleans hasn’t settled on a starter since Sean Payton’s retirement. Jameis Winston is an unrestricted free agent recovering from a torn ACL. Two quarterbacks are on the current roster, including versatile Taysom Hill and Ian Book. Teddy Bridgewater, who opened last season as the starter for the Broncos, is a familiar veteran who could make sense for head coach Dennis Allen.

–Field Level Media

Jan 26, 2020; Orlando, Florida, USA;  NFC quarterback Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks (3) and AFC quarterback Deshaun Watson of the Houston Texans (4) talk after the 2020 NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium. The AFC defeated the NFC 38-33.  Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Texans QB Deshaun Watson case goes to grand jury Friday

Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson plans to exercise Fifth Amendment rights when called to respond in a deposition Friday involving accusations of sexual misconduct by 22 women, NFL Network reported.

Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said the unwillingness to participate in questioning involves scheduling and the court declining a request to delay the deposition for the second time. Hardin requested a deposition on Monday after his first request to move it to April 1 was rejected.

Also on Friday, the district attorney investigating Watson’s case will present a case for criminal charges to a grand jury.

The judge presiding over the civil case ruled Watson, 26, can be questioned under oath only pertaining to allegations levied by the women who have not filed a criminal complaint.

What that means for Watson is that while he can delay any testimony pertaining to the alleged victims in a potential criminal case, opposing lawyers in that case could still draw from the testimony relating to the women involved in the civil cases.

Hardin said Watson’s request for a new deposition date was declined.

“I’m not going to allow him to testify (in the civil cases) until the grand jury completes its investigation,” Hardin told NFL Network on Tuesday.

Watson did not play for the Texans in 2021 and requested a trade. But pending punishment from the legal system or NFL has become a major challenge for suitors of the quarterback.

Commissioner Roger Goodell repeatedly has said only that the NFL is closely monitoring the events related to the Watson case while conducting its own investigation.

Watson passed for 4,823 yards with 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2020 following a landmark contract extension with the Texans worth $156 million over four years. That deal has yet to kick in as Watson had two years to go on his rookie contract, including a fifth-year option standard for first-round picks.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) attempts a pass as Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Harold Landry (58) defends during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dolphins GM: Miami in on Tua, out of Deshaun Watson sweepstakes

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said Miami is out on any trade for Deshaun Watson.

Grier and new head coach Mike McDaniel are instead going all in on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who enters his third NFL season with a third offensive system.

“The door is shut on Deshaun,” Grier said of the Houston Texas quarterback at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday.

Grier and McDaniel reviewed every snap of Tagovailoa’s career and put together a video of highlights around which an offensive structure can be built.

Tagovailoa also had the support of fired head coach Brian Flores, who resisted the team’s effort to acquire Watson in October 2021.

Grier said he couldn’t comment yet on the Flores lawsuit but did confirm the Dolphins called the Saints for permission to talk to Sean Payton about their head coaching vacancy before Payton announced his retirement. The Saints shot down the request.

–Field Level Media