Eric Christian Smith/AP/Shutterstock Deshaun Watson
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is apologizing for the very first time.
In an interview with Cleveland News 5 on Friday, the player, 26, publicly attempted to make amends to the women who have accused him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
"I want to say that I'm truly sorry to all the women I've impacted in this situation," Watson said in the pregame show interview with the outlet.
"The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position, I would definitely like to have back," he added, "but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I want to keep pushing forward."
Prior to the interview, Watson had said he had "no regrets" regarding his behavior in the two interviews with reporters since joining the team, ESPN reported.
As for his next steps, Watson is looking forward to his time playing. "I'm excited to get out there with my new teammates and go out there and compete," he told the outlet. "Each and every snap I want to make sure I cherish that because I'm not sure when's the next time I'll be able to get out there with those guys."
Watson also acknowledged the work he needs to do both "on and off the field." He explained, "I want to make sure that I'm just evolving in the community as much as possible and that's for the Cleveland community, the NFL community and beyond."
Deshaun spoke with Aditi Kinkhabwala ahead of starting tonight's game in Jacksonville. pic.twitter.com/9kuHxI9ULh
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 12, 2022
Friday's interview comes after the decision for a six-game suspension without pay for Watson due to violations of the NFL's personal conduct policy, according to multiple reports. The NFL has since appealed the decision asking for tougher punishment, ESPN reported.
Watson did not receive any additional fines and will be reinstated after his suspension ends, The New York Times reported. As a condition for his reinstatement, Watson will only be allowed to work with club-approved massage therapists for the remainder of his career.
Two dozen accusers allege that Watson committed indecent acts during massage therapy appointments, including allegedly exposing himself. Watson has settled 23 of the 24 lawsuits, with the most recent three ending in confidential settlements. The quarterback has not been criminally charged.
In March, Watson faced two grand juries in Texas, both of which declined to charge him. His attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in June "Deshaun Watson did nothing wrong. And as two grand juries have made clear, Deshaun did nothing illegal."
During a private hearing in June, the NFL pushed to indefinitely suspend Watson and fine him $5 million, according to The Associated Press.
Watson's suspension starts the first week of the regular season, allowing him to continue practicing with the team during the summer. His suspension will end on Oct. 23.
Given his $230 million, five-year contract, Watson will lose $345,000 from the suspension. The suspension does not impact his $45 million signing bonus he received in March after signing with the Browns from the Texans.
Watson and the NFL Players Association released a joint statement ahead of Judge Sue Robinson's decision. The statement says the NFLPA has "fully cooperated with every NFL inquiry" and "regardless of her decision, Deshaun and the NFLPA will stand by her ruling and we call on the NFL to do the same."
Our joint statement with Deshaun Watson on the impending arbitration decision: pic.twitter.com/9ObLnHiX6J
— NFLPA (@NFLPA) July 31, 2022
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The plaintiff's attorney, Tony Buzbee, who represents the women in the civil lawsuit, said, "I've said in the beginning that the civil process and the NFL's disciplinary process are very different. My role was to advance the cause of my clients, in civil court — nothing more. I've done that. I am extremely proud of these women and our legal team's efforts."