Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson on Friday expressed remorse and for the first time publicly apologized to the women he "impacted" after being accused of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
Watson's "lack of expressed remorse" was cited as an "aggravating" factor in disciplinary officer Susan L. Robinson's report detailing her decision to issue him a six-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. Browns team contributor Aditi Kinkhabwala asked Watson prior to the team's preseason opener on Friday what his response was to Robinson's determination that he lacked remorse.
"I want to say that I'm truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation," said Watson, who was first accused of sexual misconduct in March 2021. "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."
Watson started Friday’s 24-13 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars throwing two incompletions on the opening drive. Watson did not attempt a pass on Cleveland's second drive, which ended with a D’Ernest Johnson fumble.
Watson played one more series and ended his night 1 of 5 for 7 yards. Cleveland failed to earn a first down on all three possessions with Watson under center.
Watson did not talk to reporters after the game.
Friday's start came as Watson, the Browns and the league await a ruling from former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey on the NFL’s appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension. NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported Friday that there have been discussions between the NFL and NFL Players Association about a potential settlement, but nothing is imminent.
Watson, 26, has reached confidential settlements with 23 of the 24 women who filed civil lawsuits against him alleging he committed sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. Watson has previously denied any illegal behavior and asserted that any sex with the women was consensual. A pair of Texas grand juries in March declined to indict him on criminal charges.
Watson acknowledged Friday that he did not know when he'd next play.
"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 before the game. "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."
Watson's last game prior to Friday came in Week 17 of the 2020 season (Jan. 3, 2021), when he was a member of the Houston Texans. He threw for 365 yards and a touchdown in a 41-38 loss to the Tennessee Titans.