It’s been a relief not to have to write about Deshaun Watson during the 11 weeks of his suspension. We didn’t see Watson every Sunday, and not to see him was not to think about him, at least not as much.
Amazon’s Week 3 prime-time broadcast danced around the reasons why the Browns quarterback was not at practice, nor on the sideline. ESPN didn’t in Week 8, when Joe Buck specifically mentioned the 26 lawsuits alleging Watson’s sexual misconduct during massage appointments.
Even though he was out of sight, Watson’s suspension wasn’t truly a break from the year-and-half-long saga — on Oct. 14, six games into the suspension, another woman filed a civil lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct.
Saga really isn’t the right word. It’s too small and flippant to properly summarize the serious, sprawling mess that has changed the lives of dozens of women, remade the identity of two NFL franchises and forced the league to once again confront the contradictions and inadequacies of its own disciplinary process.
Watson is returning to the field Sunday nearly two years since his last NFL game, but that’s hardly a reason to think that this is all over. Since Cleveland traded for Watson in March, when Browns GM Andrew Berry said he had enough information about the incidents to declare himself “confident in Deshaun the person,” Watson has been sued three more times.
Tony Buzbee, the attorney who represented the first 25 women to sue Watson, wouldn’t say how many women he’s spoken to with similar allegations who didn’t end up suing, but he did point out that in July, two weeks after he filed a lawsuit against the Texans for their role in enabling Watson’s behavior, the team resolved that lawsuit and 29 other claims — more than just the 25 women he represented in civil suits.