Watson gets to Cleveland for physical, possible introduction


CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson stepped away from legal depositions and allegations of sexual misconduct on Thursday to meet his new team.

Wearing an orange throwback Browns jacket, Watson arrived at Cleveland’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio, the first step for him and a franchise investing in a player who has been accused by 22 women of sexual assault and harassment.

TV cameras captured Watson walking into the team’s facility shortly before noon. Watson was scheduled to undergo a physical, and the Browns were still ironing out plans for a possible introductory news conference.

The 26-year-old Watson spent two days this week in Houston giving depositions in civil lawsuits filed by female massage therapists, who allege he harassed and assaulted them during massage appointments.

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, where Houston is located, recently declined to indict Watson on criminal charges.

A three-time Pro Bowler, Watson, who sat out the 2020 season after demanding a trade, chose Cleveland to restart his career over several other teams after initially telling the Browns he wasn’t interested in playing for them. However, he changed his mind, perhaps swayed by a fully guaranteed $230 million contract.

Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam released statements on Sunday saying the team went through a “comprehensive evaluation process” before deciding to pursue Watson and ultimately signing him.

The Haslams flew to Houston and met with Watson along with Browns general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski.

“He was humble, sincere and candid,” the Haslams said. “In our conversations, Deshaun detailed his commitment to leading our team; he understands and embraces the hard work needed to build his name both in the community and on the field.”

The Browns traded three first-round picks and six selections overall to the Texans for Watson, who may finally end Cleveland’s decades-long search for a franchise quarterback.

Watson, though, is still facing discipline from the NFL and it’s likely he’ll miss at least a portion of the 2022 season. The league is doing an independent investigation into Watson’s off-field behavior to determine whether he violated its personal conduct policy.

With Watson on board, the Browns are attempting to trade Baker Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 who had a rough, injury-altered 2020 season. Mayfield requested the trade after learning of the Browns’ interest in Watson.

Cleveland also signed former Indianapolis starter Jacoby Brissett as a backup, and insurance in case Watson is suspended.

On Wednesday night, Browns cornerback Greg Newsome II said he didn’t know Watson and he and his teammates were looking forward to meeting him.

“We’ve kind of just got to get a feel for him,” Newsome said at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. “We don’t know him as anything as of right now, so we’ve just got to get to know him.”

By Tom Withers

AP Sports Writer

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