Browns' Deshaun Watson 'has made progress' in his treatment program

Browns’ Deshaun Watson ‘has made progress’ in his treatment program

Speaking to reporters Thursday for the first time since his 11-game suspension began, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson declined to answer any non-football related questions on the advice of his legal team and his clinical team.

Indeed, sources tell CBS Sports that Watson had been told by his behavioral clinical team that he should not talk about his treatment program and his recovery. And while the exact details of his program are inside medical information, a league source said the NFL and its experts have been told “he has made progress” in the program.

Watson will play his first game of the season today against the Houston Texans, his former team. In August, Watson, the NFL Players Association and the NFL reached a settlement where he was suspended 11 games, fined $5 million and ordered to undergo treatment.

The NFL pushed Watson into mandatory behavioral treatment as administered by professional clinicians. It differs from therapy, according to a league source, in that it hopes to help people recognize they’ve caused harm with the actions they’ve taken and help them change their behavior so they don’t cause harm in the future.

Watson has faced numerous allegations of sexual misconduct from massage therapists. A total of 26 civil lawsuits have been filed against Watson: 23 have been settled, one has been dropped and two are pending. Watson was never charged by police and two grand juries declined to indict him earlier this year.

The league, in consultation with the NFL Players Association, spent weeks seeking a professional evaluator who was experienced and understood the nuances and complexities of this particular case. This evaluation took place shortly after the settlement was agreed to, and from there, the evaluator composed a treatment plan that would be executed by clinicians in the Cleveland area.

This plan is protected by HIPAA, but a source says general updates are and have been provided to league and union medical staff. CBS Sports reported earlier in the season that the treatment would continue after the suspension is lifted, and that remains true, though the duration is unclear.

Watson, who signed an unprecedented fully guaranteed contract with the Browns this offseason for $230 million, has spoken publicly less than half a dozen times since the allegations first surfaced.

On August 12, Watson appeared to show some contrition in an interview without admitting guilt.

“I want to say I’m so sorry for all the women I’ve impacted in a situation,” Watson said. “My decisions that I’ve made in my life that put me in this position that I would really like to get back. I want to keep moving forward, growing, learning and showing that I’m a real person of character.”

But less than a week later, he seemed to back down on what he said. A source called its August 18 press conference “disappointing” for the league, and it came almost as soon as the terms of the settlement were announced.

“I’ve always stood up for my innocence and always said I never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone and I continue to stand by that,” Watson said in August.

While there was disappointment within the league office, there was also hope that the treatment would help guide Watson. A league source noted that with two court cases still pending, Watson might not be able to admit some things if he wanted to, but there was room to show some accountability, of growth and learning.

As he prepares for his comeback on Sunday, the question many are asking is: why now? Didn’t the league realize the Browns would face Watson’s former team in Houston in their 12th game? Or did the league do this for the ratings, as many have thought?

League sources tell me the potential ratings have no bearing on the game. The schedule was released three months before settlement was ever reached. The game would never have made it into a prime-time window, sources say, and the CBS broadcast of the Browns-Texans game will be seen almost exclusively in the Houston and Cleveland areas.

Each of the 11 games of the suspension was a negotiation, sources noted. The league initially requested an indefinite suspension of at least a year while the NFLPA pushed for zero games. Retired judge Sue L. Robinson, jointly appointed by the league and union to be the disciplinary officer, handed down a six-game suspension while calling her “pattern of conduct more egregious than any previously reviewed by the court.” NFL”.

The union and Watson agreed to the six-game suspension, but the NFL opened its right to appeal and Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey to hear the appeal. At this point, settlement talks began in earnest between the parties. The midpoint between six games and a full 17-game year is 11 1/2.

In short, the league accepted 11 games because there were more important pieces to the puzzle. The more time we spent haggling another game or two, the less time there was to put Watson on a treatment plan, I was told.

The league and union were able to reach an agreement rather than the league imposing its own indefinite suspension of at least a year. A reasonable response from Watson and the union would be a lengthy legal battle that would delay processing. If the goal was for lessons to eventually be learned, agreeing to a deal that allowed Watson to get treatment quickly was seen as worthwhile.

On Thursday, a reporter asked Watson if he ever plans to tackle non-football issues and give his side of things.

“At the moment, I can’t say any of that,” Watson said. “Who knows what the future holds? Right now, I’m so determined to be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.”

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