HOUSTON -- The Texans opened the 2021 NFL season with a 37-21 win over the Jaguars on Sunday, giving Houston the lone AFC South victory of Week 1. David Culley and Co. notably prevailed without their highest-paid player, a game-day absence the team will have to get used to.
The expectation throughout the facility at NRG Stadium -- from the top levels on down -- is Deshaun Watson will never take another snap for the Texans. The fifth-year pro is still demanding a trade dating back to January, and is facing 22 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct and sexual assault. There are ongoing investigations by the FBI, Houston Police and NFL. Watson has denied any wrongdoing.
With no resolution pertaining to any of the above, the Texans and Watson have taken a day-by-day approach to his situation. Watson hasn't missed a day of work since the start of training camp. He still holds a spot on Houston's 53-man roster and is currently listed as the third-string quarterback on the team's depth chart. He's not exiled, but rather has been at the facility interacting with his teammates. General manager Nick Caserio publicly stated recently that he has talked with Watson, and the quarterback has not been a distraction.
"I've had multiple conversations with Deshaun in training camp," Caserio told reporters. "Like I said, his attitude has been good, he hasn't been a problem, he hasn't been a disruption. So, we're going to take it one day at a time."
Teammates I spoke with in the lead-up to Houston's season opener have said the same of how Watson has handled the situation. Almost a dozen players, some emphatically, have stated to me that Watson is not a distraction. The situation isn't uncomfortable behind closed doors, I'm told. Veteran safety Justin Reid told me last week it's "become the new normal" within the building. Watson comes in, gets his workouts in, attends meetings and works with starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (who led the way in Houston's win over Jacksonville, with 291 yards and two touchdowns through the air, as well as 40 yards on the ground). There is the thought that Watson, one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, sees things in defenses and in film sessions most don't. He provides an extra set of eyes in meetings.
Last week, Watson wasn't seen during the portions of practice that were open to the media; the team listed him as a Did Not Participate, with a non-injury designation, each day. On Friday, the Texans ruled Watson out against the Jaguars, listing him with a non-injury designation. This could be the standard operating procedure throughout the season, unless Watson is moved before the Nov. 2 trade deadline, a possibility NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday morning. The quarterback wasn't seen during the Texans' home preseason game and did not travel with the team to its two road preseason games. Watson was not present Sunday at NRG Stadium during Houston's win over Jacksonville. So, with the 2021 season now officially underway, nothing has changed -- and nothing will likely change for at least several weeks.
For now, Watson is a member of the Texans, and he is not their starting quarterback. That job has been Taylor's since the start of training camp. As it was recently put to me by Reid, "We get the question every day. I don't think the answer is really ever going to change much."