CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has met the terms of his disciplinary settlement and was fully reinstated by the NFL Monday afternoon.
The Browns added Watson to their active 53-man roster from the reserve/suspended by commissioner list and waived quarterback Joshua Dobbs to make room.
Watson will start for the Browns Sunday in Houston against his former team, the Texans, in what is expected to be a hostile environment.
“Deshaun has the support of his teammates and has the support of this organization,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said. “Really right now his focus and my focus is on the Houston game. That is what we have to do as players and as coaches is put the blinders on. Whatever is going on on the outside really can’t matter to us. We have to focus on doing our job, and I think he definitely understands that.”
Watson served an 11-game ban, paid a $5 million fine and has been participating in a counseling program under the terms of a disciplinary settlement with the NFL following civil lawsuits filed by nearly two dozen women accusing the three-time Pro Bowler of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions while a member of the Texans.
Watson has settled 23 of those lawsuits while two remain active according to Harris County, Texas court records.
The disciplinary settlement, which was reached in mid-August, followed the NFL’s appeal of a six-game ban that independent arbiter and former federal judge Sue L. Robinson handed down after she found that Watson violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy in multiple ways amid the accusations levied against him.
Watson returned to the Browns facility on October 10 where he attended meetings and worked out on his own. He began practicing with the team on November 16 where he took scout team and some limited offensive reps to prepare the defense for their last two games.
“He looks good,” receiver Donovan Peoples Jones said.
“He is a cool guy. Ready and excited to play with him.”
Watson hasn’t played since the 2020 season when he led the NFL in passing yardage, a span of nearly 700 days, but rookie cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. echoed Peoples-Jones’ assessment of where Watson’s game is.
“He looks pretty good. I know he's ready,” Emerson said. “I'm excited for him. He threw a fade on me it was like—I can't really explain it. It was like an overhead, back shoulder fade that only the receiver could catch. It was like out of bounds and a receiver had thrown both his arms over his shoulder to catch the ball, and I had no chance to make that play. So I'm excited for him to come back.
“I feel like Deshaun is very explosive. I feel like we’ll have a lot more explosive plays.”
Cleveland went 4-7 in Watson’s absence and are banking on him to be the transformational player the franchise has lacked for decades at the quarterback position.
“I have confidence in Deshaun based on his preparation,” Stefanski said. “Really, the focus is on him just doing his job. We are still going to be all about the team effort and still offense, defense and special teams. This is never ever going to be about one person. As it relates to Deshaun, I believe in his preparation. I believe that he has worked really hard on a bunch of things to be ready to go.”
The Browns acquired Watson from the Texans in March for six draft picks, including three first rounders, and then gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.