HOUSTON (AP) — Deshaun Watson signed autographs, posed for selfies, ignored the boos and picked up a sloppy win.
Again, he refused to express remorse for behavior that earned him an 11-game suspension.
Returning to his old home to play his first game in 700 days, Watson showed a lot of rust in his debut for Cleveland, but the Browns didn’t need him to do much in a 27-14 win. on the Houston Texans on Sunday.
After signing jerseys for Texans and Browns fans and taking photos with a few others before the game, Watson was showered with boos once he started. He heard teasing before every snap in the first half and for much of the afternoon.
“They are supposed to boo. I’m a Cleveland Brown now,” Watson said.
Watson has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual harassment and assault during massage sessions. It has settled 23 civil lawsuits brought by the women, while two others, including one filed in October, are pending.
When asked if he felt remorse for his actions upon returning to Houston, Watson said his legal team told him not to answer questions about his suspension.
“Of course it was a difficult situation,” he said. “The suspension was difficult but, at the same time, my main goal was just to try to be 1-0 as a football player today.”
Pressed further, Watson said: “I was just delighted to be back on the pitch today. I did everything I was asked, what I was asked to do. I did all of that.
Watson had several supporters in the stands before the match, while a group of women who accused him of sexual misconduct also planned to attend. Lawyer Tony Buzbee, who represents the women, did not respond to a text message asking to confirm their attendance. He said earlier in the week that about 10 women wanted to attend “to make some sort of statement, ‘Hey, we’re still here. We count.
A fan walked into the NRG stadium wearing a derogatory Browns-colored shirt that includes text that reads ‘I need a massage’. He was joined by a fan wearing Watson’s No. 4 Browns jersey.
Fans in the parking lot set up a fake massage table with a model wearing a red Texans jersey and a towel.
The few fans seated in their seats when Watson and the Browns ran onto the pitch about an hour before kickoff booed.
“It is what it is,” Watson said of the boos. “I can’t control what the fans do. My job is to go out there and perform.
He didn’t do that too well.
Watson completed 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and one interception. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback posted the worst passer rating of his NFL career at 53.4. The Browns (5-7) had two defensive touchdowns and a special teams score to beat the Texans (1-10-1).
After an interception gave the Browns their first possession in their 43, Watson threw two incomplete passes. He walked away from a sack on third down and the fans cheered as his throw to David Bell hit the ground.
Watson’s first completed pass on his third attempt resulted in a turnover when Anthony Schwartz fumbled after a 12-yard gain. Watson then led the Browns to Houston’s 11 before throwing a pick into the end zone.
“We don’t expect him to be Superman after he hasn’t played in two years,” All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said.
Watson missed the 2021 season after requesting a trade from Houston. After two grand juries in Texas refused to indict him on allegations of sexual harassment and assault, the Browns traded multiple draft picks to get Watson, then signed him to a $235 million contract entirely guaranteed.
During warm-ups, Watson signed jerseys for the fans behind the end zone. An 18-year-old man from East Texas got Watson’s autograph on his Browns jersey. A Houston couple wearing Texans jerseys also got Watson’s signature on their jerseys.
“We don’t really know what happened and everyone deserves a second chance,” said Sherry Holden, explaining her support.
Several Browns fans said they weren’t comfortable rooting for Watson.
“I’m cheering for the jersey and the team, but it’s hard to accept him as a quarterback,” said Brandon Collins, who flew in from Ohio for the game.
The NFL wanted to suspend Watson for at least a season, but settled for 11 games after an independent arbitrator initially granted him a six-game ban. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pointed to former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson, calling Watson’s behavior “flagrant” and “predatory” in asking for the full suspension.
Watson was also fined $5 million and had to undergo professional therapy and counseling. Watson maintained his innocence but also apologized to the women he impacted and
The Browns went 4-7 with veteran Jacoby Brissett replacing Watson.
Coach Kevin Stefanski has pledged to start Watson next week and insisted he got rid of his first game.
“He looked very lively in training and he’s excited for the next one so he understood this one was going to be different,” Stefanski said.
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