Quarterback Deshaun Watson played soccer for the first time since early January 2021. In three series, he completed one of five passes for seven yards.
Coach Kevin Stefanski assessed the performance during a post-game press conference.
“I think he probably wants some throws back,” Stefanski said. “Obviously, when I was playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important to go out with his teammates on this schedule, just hear a different voice in the helmet, that sort of thing. I’m sure he’s got the butterflies and got the jitters early on. But I think he understands that there is work to be done.”
Stefanski said he doesn’t believe the drama over Watson’s off-field problem is affecting his performance. Stefanski also downplayed the idea that not playing with other starters was a factor.
“They had some players that they don’t play either,” Stefanski said. “So I don’t look at that too much. It’s just – you know, it’s our first game out there. And I think you could see it. You know, I think Jacksonville had one game in it. So for us some rust off and then back to work.”
Appropriately, Stefanksi remained stunned even about the situation with Watson.
“I think this was important for him to go out in a competition environment, under the lights, with new teammates and start operating,” Stefanski said. “It wouldn’t be perfect. And even if it was perfect, you can’t overreact to that either. So I just think it was all part of the progression for him.”
Regarding the apology Watson had unexpectedly issued before the match, Stefanski seemed to welcome it.
“I’ve been with Deshaun for a few months now and I know he wants to grow,” Stefanski said. “I know he does. And that’s personal; that’s professional. And I think he does that very, very seriously. And I think that’s part of that next step for him.”
It’s a step that comes much later than it should have been, frankly. So much could have been prevented if Watson had acknowledged his behavior and made amends when the claims were first made. If he had people around him who had spoken truths instead of circling the wagons, that might have happened.
The reckoning always comes. The question is whether it will be embraced or resisted. The longer it is resisted, the worse it will eventually be.