Deshaun Watson starts for Browns in preseason, appeal decision still to come

Watson starts for Browns in preseason, makes first public apology originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Deshaun Watson took the field tonight in an NFL game – albeit a preseason one – for the first time since Week 17 of the 2020 season.

Earlier this week, the Cleveland Browns named Watson the starter for their first preseason game, in Jacksonville against the Jaguars, which kicked off tonight at 7 p.m. ET.

He could have been prevented from playing by Peter Harvey, whom Commissioner Roger Goodell chose as his surrogate in Watson’s suspension case stemming from sexual misconduct accusations by 24 women in Texas. Watson's current suspension does not apply to the preseason.

There is no timetable for Harvey’s decision. Although his decision is considered binding under the terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the NFL Players Association is expected to attempt to challenge the ruling in federal court. A settlement between the two sides is also possible, with sources telling the AP on Thursday that Watson would accept an eight-game suspension and $5 million fine to avoid missing the entire season.

Former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson gave Watson a six-game suspension on August 1. The league is seeking a longer suspension, with Goodell saying earlier this week that “the evidence” of Watson’s “predatory behavior” warrants suspending him for the entire 2021 season.

Prior to the Browns' preseason opener, Watson publicly apologized to the women involved in the ongoing and settled sexual assault cases. It was the first time Watson issued a public apology.

The Browns’ next two preseason games are both home games: Sunday, Aug. 21 at 1 p.m. ET against the Philadelphia Eagles, and Saturday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. ET against the Chicago Bears.