Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson got a taste of what road racing will look like on Friday when he resumes his NFL career full-time.
Watson was given a six-game suspension from an independent judge earlier this month over allegations of sexual misconduct involving more than two dozen women. The NFL wants a longer suspension and has appealed to league commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the quarterback had engaged in “unauthorized” and “predatory behavior.”
Still available for pre-season games, Watson made his debut for the Browns against the Jaguars in Jacksonville on Friday night. Fans chanted “no means no” and “you sick bastard” to the 26-year-old. He struggled during his brief appearance, completing just one of five passes for seven yards in his first game since January 2021 when he was with the Houston Texans.
Watson has denied all wrongdoing and grand juries declined to charge him with criminal charges. He has so far reached a settlement with 23 of the women who have filed lawsuits against him. The Browns did not make him available to the media after Friday’s games, but Watson previously apologized to the women involved in the allegations.
“Look, I want to say I’m really sorry to all the women I’ve influenced in this situation,” Watson said in his pregame interview. “The decisions I’ve made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to move on and grow and learn and show that I’m a real person with character and I’m going to keep moving forward Push.”
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski admitted his quarterback looked nervous during the game.
“I think he probably wants some throws back,” Stefanski said. “Obviously I was playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important for him to go out with his teammates on this schedule. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early on. But I think that he understands what he is doing.”
The NFL would like a one-year suspension for Watson. He is considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the league. The Browns traded for him earlier this year after he sat out the 2021 season due to his legal issues and a feud with his former team, the Texans.
The NFL regular season begins on September 8. If Watson serves a six-game ban, he would return against the Browns’ rivals, the Ravens, in Baltimore, where he would meet a significantly more hostile crowd than in Jacksonville.