When he met with reporters on Thursday, Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson declined to answer non-football questions. Neither the NFL nor the NFL Players Association is saying anything about the situation, so the only option left is to leak an interested version of the situation to a reporter, in the hope that the reporter will pass it on without asking. questions or push back.
ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter reports that NFL and NFLPA experts believe Watson showed “signs of progress” during mandatory treatment sessions. Watson was required to submit to treatment as part of the negotiated settlement of his league-imposed suspension.
Schefter notes that the situation is confidential, before of course facilitating a breach of confidentiality in a way intended to improve Watson’s appearance.
“He’s progressing well and he wants to continue, and they feel that’s helping him,” said an unnamed source “connected” to Watson’s treatment program. “It’s just kind of continuous as needed and it will be continuous until it’s no longer needed. And I think that gave him a lot of help and support. But it could take time. »
Two important questions are left unanswered (and unanswered) by this new report: (1) how much progress did he need to make to be reinstated; and (2) how much progress has he actually made?
On August 18, after Watson agreed to accept an 11-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine, he maintained his innocence of allegations of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. At the time, league sources downplayed his refusal to publicly admit his wrongdoing, saying he would realize the things he shouldn’t have done and why he wouldn’t. had to make them through treatment.
Does the term “signs of progress” mean that it is not there yet? Again, has he really done enough to justify his reinstatement, in accordance with the requirements established in August?
A bit of cynicism is warranted here, given the very real belief in some league circles that some owners wanted Watson suspended for less than a year, so the Browns wouldn’t see Watson’s contract run out for a year. entire season. If Watson didn’t return at all in 2022, his five-year contract would start in 2023 and run through 2027. Returning during the season, the Browns only have Watson under contract through 2026 — and they will be obligated to pay the full value of their agreement during this period.
Many questions will be answered today regarding how he is being received in Houston and how he is playing after so long away. After the game, don’t expect to hear more about whether he has any real contrition for the events that led to his suspension.
Indeed, don’t expect to hear more until some Sunday morning, when a reporter reports that Watson is privately showing the contrition he refused to show in August and refused to even begin addressing Thursday.