JACKSONVILLE, FLA. − The lack of remorse was something that Sue L. Robinson indicated was one of the contributing factors in her ruling against Deshaun Watson.
At no point, in either interviews with NFL investigators or two separate media availabilities, had Watson expressed remorse for anything he had been accused of doing by the two-dozen women who accused him of sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massage appointments. That lack of remorse was one of the reasons why Robinson handed the Browns quarterback a six-game suspension in a ruling issued Aug. 1.
Watson, in a roughly two-minute interview with Aditi Kinkhabwala prior the Browns' preseason opener against the Jaguars on Friday, was asked directly about the lack of remorse shown.
“Look, I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all the women that I have impacted in this situation," Watson said in the interview, which was conducted at the team's hotel prior to leaving for the game. "The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”
Deshaun spoke with Aditi Kinkhabwala ahead of starting tonight's game in Jacksonville. pic.twitter.com/9kuHxI9ULh
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) August 12, 2022
Watson had not spoken publicly to any media since June 14, when he conducted a post-practice media availability after the first day of veteran minicamp. The only other time he has spoken since being acquired by the Browns in a trade with the Texans was an introductory press conference on March 25.
Watson did not speak to the media following the game.
The game in Jacksonville marked the first time Watson had started a game since appearing in Houston's regular-season finale against Tennessee on Jan. 3, 2021. He sat out all of the 2021 season, with pay, in the midst of a trade-request dispute with the Texans.
After JaMarcus Bradley returned the opening kickoff Friday night to the Browns' 13, Watson took the field to a hearty round of boos from the Jaguar fans. His first play was a play-action pass where he rolled out to the left, but the pass sailed over the head of Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Watson's next pass, to Anthony Schwartz, also fell incomplete on the drive. Watson was 1-of-5 for 7 yards on his first three series, all within the first 11 minutes of the game.
"I think he probably wants some throws back," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said following Cleveland's 24-13 win. "Obviously, playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important for him to get out there with his teammates in this scheme. Just hearing a different voice in the helmet, those types of things. I'm sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early. I think he understands there's work to do."
Joshua Dobbs replaced Watson on the Browns' fourth series with 14:02 left in the second quarter. Jacoby Brissett, who'll start in Watson's place during his suspension, was not expected to play against Jacksonville.
Stefanski said after the game Brissett would get work in during the Browns' final preseason game against Chicago on Aug. 27. They also play host to Philadelphia on Aug. 21 following two days of joint practices with the Eagles next Thursday and Friday.
Watson's fate remains uncertain, as the NFL's appeal remains active in front of Peter C. Harvey, the designee of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Harvey was named to the case on Aug. 4, a day after the league filed its appeal.
Goodell has indicated a strong desire from the league to see Watson suspended for a full year. If that were to occur, he would be banned from all team activities until he is reinstated.
'Right thing to do': Roger Goodell explains why NFL appealed Deshaun Watson's suspension
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Watson and the Browns boarded a plane for Jacksonville on Wednesday afternoon not knowing for certain that such a ruling wouldn't be coming down. There has been talk in the 24 hours or so leading up to the game of the potential for a settlement between the two parties, which could allow him to play at some point during the regular season.
Any suspension that doesn't include a full season would permit Watson to participate in any team on-field activities until Aug. 30, the league's cutdown date. That has allowed him to participate throughout the offseason program and training camp, as well as start Friday's game in Jacksonville.
Watson arrived with the rest of the Brown to TIAA Bank Field shortly before 4 p.m. ET Friday. He made his first appearance on the field a little after 5 p.m. wearing a brown shirt and shorts and carrying with him an orange towel to go through some stretching and warmups
"I’m super excited," Watson said. "I’m excited to get out there with my new teammates and go out there and compete. Each and every snap, I want to make sure I cherish that because I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be able to get out there with those guys so I’m super excited.”
A total of 24 women filed lawsuits against Watson alleging sexual misconduct or sexual assault during massages. Watson, who was never charged criminally, has settled 23 of those lawsuits.
The Texans also settled with 30 women who made or intended to make claims against the team for its role in enabling Watson. The NFL has not conducted any investigation into the role Houston's organization played in the matter.
“I know I have a lot of work to put in, especially on the field to be able to make sure I’m ready to play whenever that time comes whenever I can step back on the field," Watson said. "But also, the biggest thing is I want to continue counseling and I want to make sure that I’m growing as a person, as an individual for my decision making on and off the field. I want to make sure that I’m just evolving in the community as much as possible, and that is for the Cleveland community, that is the NFL community and beyond.”
Contact Chris at email@example.com and on Twitter: @ceasterlingABJ
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Deshaun Watson issues apology prior to Browns preseason game