BEREA, Ohio — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to start Friday’s preseason opener against the Jaguars.
The team made the announcement Wednesday 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 received for violating disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s personal conduct policy last week.
On August 3, the NFL appealed Robinson’s ruling, as it seeks a harsher punishment for Watson. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell appointed former New Jersey attorney general Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal.
On Tuesday, Goodell told reporters the league was seeking a season-long suspension because the quarterback’s actions were “egregious” and “predatory behavior,” as Robinson noted in his 16-page report. In issuing the six-game suspension, Robinson found that Watson had 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 endangers the integrity of the NFL.
Goodell said he did not know when Harvey would make a ruling, although the CBA requires 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 encounters alleged 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 dismissed after a judge ruled in April 2021 that the plaintiffs had to amend their requests 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.
Up 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 was not 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’re going to adjust based on information. I’m comfortable with what Jacoby has done so far with his reps. He’s gotten a lot of them. He’s gotten some with the ones and some with the twos, and we’re going to stick to our plan short of a new one information.”