Watson apologizes, then struggles in Browns preseason debut

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Deshaun Watson apologized ahead of his preseason debut with the Cleveland Browns and then got an ear from opposing fans.

Watson on Friday apologized “to all the women I’ve influenced” after being accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women during massage therapy sessions.

Watson, who may face a year-long suspension, publicly expressed remorse and remorse for the first time since he was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting the women during therapy sessions in 2020 and 2021.

He spoke ahead of the team’s exhibition opener, a 24-13 win in Jacksonville (0-2) that saw Watson booed all around during three work runs. Fans in an end zone could chant vulgarities at Watson during his first drive.

The three-time Pro Bowler completed 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards in his first game action since Jan. 3, 2021 with Houston.

“I think he probably wants some setbacks,” said Browns coach Kevin Stefanski. “Obviously he was playing football for the first time in a while and I felt it was important for him to play in that system with his teammates. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early on. But I think he understands what he’s working on.”

Watson missed first downs and 7 yards while playing without receivers Amari Cooper, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin. Starting center Nick Harris, who replaces NFLPA president and salary cap victim JC Tretter, went down in the second game with a right knee injury.

Harris will have tests Saturday to determine the extent of his injury, Stefanski said.

Cleveland was 13-0 down at the end of Watson’s night. He spent much of the second half sitting on a cooler on the touchline and chewing gum. If he made any progress, it came before kick-off.

“Look, I want to say to all the women that I’m truly sorry for having an impact on this situation,” Watson said in the pre-game interview. “The choices I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to keep moving forward and growing and learning and showing that I’m a real person of character and I will leave to push further.”

The team declined to make Watson available after the game.

Watson, who denied any wrongdoing while settling 23 of 24 civil lawsuits, still faces league discipline. The NFL has appealed independent umpire Sue L. Robinson’s six-game suspension. The retired federal judge concluded that Watson violated the league’s conduct policy with “egregious” and “predatory” behavior. As part of her decision, Robinson noted Watson’s lack of remorse.

The appeal now rests with Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey Attorney General who was appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell. In the meantime, Watson can practice and play. Stefanski said he wanted to get Watson into the preseason despite the threat of suspension.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about for the past few months, weeks, just trying to figure out what’s the best path forward — not just for our quarterbacks — but for the entire team,” he said.

Watson jogged into TIAA Bank Field with a security guard at his side and later stopped to sign autographs after the warm-up. No protests against Watson were found outside the stadium, although several cars with unsavory messages could be seen tearing up the embattled quarterback.


Jacksonville played most of its starters and looked significantly better than last week’s Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio.

Trevor Lawrence completed 6 of 12 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown, a 9-yarder for Evan Engram on a fourth down play.

“Overall, I think we played pretty well the first three series,” said Lawrence, who didn’t have to face Cleveland star pass rushers Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney.

Jaguars running back Travis Etienne played for the first time since his foot injury last preseason and rushed for 23 yards. He also had a 10-yard reception that set up a field goal.

The Jaguars posted a clear sign of progress on each of their first three holdings as new coach Doug Pederson oversees another rebuild in Jacksonville.


Browns rookie Martin Emerson had the game of the game, snatching a pass from Jaguars receiver Jeff Cotton and taking it 74 yards the other way for a touchdown and a 14-13 lead in the second quarter. It was another moment for Emerson, a third-round draft pick pushing for game time in a backfield that includes Denzel Ward, Greg Newsome and Greedy Williams.


Browns rookie running back Jerome Ford, a fifth-round pick from Cincinnati, had a stellar night despite a late fumble. Ford rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 46 yards and a score.

Ford gives Cleveland another option in a crowded — and talented — backfield. Chubb and Hunt sat out, leaving D’Ernest Johnson to start. But Johnson fiddled with the second series, and Ford took over from there.


The Browns host Philadelphia on August 21.

Jaguars host Pittsburgh on August 20th.

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