CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Deshaun Watson’s eyes were focused forward Thursday afternoon in Berea and on the Houston Texans.
The Browns new $230 million franchise quarterback spoke in advance of making his first start for the team Sunday, but he only answered football-related questions, citing advice from his legal and counseling teams.
“I have been advised to stay away from that and keep that personal,” Watson said.
Before taking questions, Watson opened his media availability by thanking the Browns, fans, Clevelanders for welcoming him, his trainers and support staff, and lastly, quarterback Jacoby Brissett before taking questions.
It was Watson’s first time speaking since agreeing to a disciplinary settlement with the NFL in August that saw him serve an 11-game suspension to begin the season, pay a $5 million fine and undergo mandatory counseling.
The closest Watson came to addressing non-football matters came when he was asked if it was important to him to return in time to face his former team, the Texans.
“I was just trying whatever I could do to play football in 2022,” Watson said. “Most of the settlement stuff with the NFL was mostly my agency and legal team. I had no control. My main focus was doing everything I needed to do to so I could play this year.”
Houston traded Watson to Cleveland in March for six draft picks, including first rounders in 2022, 2023 and 2024.
“I am excited,” Watson said. “I am excited to just play football in general in front of Cleveland Browns fans but also in front of some of the Houston Texans fans. I respect the whole organization of the Houston Texans. I respect the McNair family. I respect everyone that was there that drafted me in 2017. It has been great memories and fun memories.
“I still have a home in Houston. I still have friends and family still in Houston and relationships that are still there… I have so much love for the City of Houston and H-Town, and everyone in that city pretty much knows that.”
Watson was accused in civil lawsuits by nearly two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions while a member of the Texans. Watson has maintained his innocence and two grand juries declined to charge him with a crime.
It is expected that he will likely face a hostile environment Sunday.
Four of his six starts will come on the road and if the reception he got in Jacksonville for the preseason opener was any indication, those won’t be hospitable environments either.
“I'm focused on being the starting quarterback and executing the game plan,” Watson said. “That's not my main focus. I'm not worried about the atmosphere. I've got to go in and make sure I execute the game plan.”
Two lawsuits against Watson, who settled 23 others, remain active according to Harris County, Texas court records.
Watson returned to the Browns facility on October 10, was cleared to practice November 14 and fully reinstated November 28 by the league. Moments after the NFL’s reinstatement, the Browns activated him off the reserve/suspended by the commissioner list.
Watson hasn’t played in nearly 700 days, so some rust against the 1-9-1 Texans is to be expected, right?
“Honestly, I am not sure,” Watson said. “This is my first time having time off. My biggest focus is just going out there, and just really whatever Kevin calls, make sure I am executing, taking it one play at a time, and let the game come to me, not press or anything like that.”
The hope is that Watson will finally give the Browns something they haven’t had for decades – a dynamic, explosive, MVP-caliber threat.
“Like I said, it might take time or it might not take time,” Watson said. “I just want to go out there, do what I want to do and make plays as much as I possibly can. Two years is definitely a long time, but at the same time, I have been doing this since I was six years old. Just like riding a bike, I am going to go out there, just find the pedals, get my transition going and then let everything come to me, don’t press it and don’t make anything bigger than what it really is.”