Browns: Watson to start preseason opener

Deshaun Watson is Facing a Pending ...
Deshaun Watson is Facing a Pending Six Game Suspension

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BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to start Friday’s preseason opener against the Jaguars.

The team made the announcement Wednesday, just before boarding a flight to Jacksonville, Florida.

Watson and the Browns are waiting to see if he will be suspended longer than the six-game suspension he was handed for violating the personal conduct policy by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson last week.

On August 3, the NFL appealed Robinson’s decision as it seeks a harsher punishment for Watson. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell previously appointed New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal.

On Tuesday, Goodell told reporters the league is seeking a season-long suspension because the quarterback’s actions were “egregious” and “predatory,” as Robinson noted in his 16-page report. While issuing the six-game suspension, Robinson found that Watson engaged in sexual assault (as the NFL defines it), conduct that poses a danger to the safety and well-being of another person, and conduct that undermines or impugns the integrity of NFL.

Goodell said he did not know when Harvey would make a decision, although the CBA is calling for the appeals process to be “expedited.”

Watson has been accused of sexual assault and other inappropriate behavior during massage sessions in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. The alleged meetings in the lawsuits took place from March 2020 to March 2021 while Watson was a member of the Houston Texans.

One of the 25 lawsuits was dropped after a judge ruled in April 2021 that the plaintiffs must amend their petitions to reveal their names. In June, Watson settled 20 of the 24 lawsuits he faced. He agreed Monday to settle three of the remaining four, according to Houston attorney Tony Buzbee, who represents the women suing Watson.

To this point in training camp, Watson has continued to get the overwhelming majority of first-team snaps in practice over backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Coach Kevin Stefanski has not been specific about when Brissett might get more first-team reps, saying only that the Browns have a plan.

“I’m confident in our plan,” Stefanski said. “Obviously we’ll adjust based on information. I’m comfortable with what Jacoby has done to date with his reps. He’s gotten a lot of them. He’s gotten some ones and some twos and we’ll stick to our plan missing any new information.”

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