Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is expected to meet this week with NFL representatives as part of the league’s investigation of allegations of sexual misconduct made against Watson, a person familiar with the situation confirmed Monday.
An NFL spokesman declined to comment on the planned meeting with Watson, saying in a statement that “the review is active and ongoing.”
Watson faces potential disciplinary measures by the league under its personal conduct policy. Under a process that was revised in the most recent collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association completed in 2020, the initial ruling on a prospective suspension or fine will be made by a disciplinary officer appointed by the NFL and the players’ union.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell still possesses the authority to resolve an appeal by either side of the initial ruling.
Two grand juries in Texas declined to charge Watson with a crime. He faces 22 active civil lawsuits by women accusing him of behaviors including making inappropriate comments, exposing himself and forcing his penis on women’s hands during massage therapy sessions. Watson and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied the allegations.
The Browns completed a trade with the Houston Texans for Watson this offseason and signed him to a new contract worth a guaranteed $230 million over five seasons. Watson did not play last season, being placed on the Texans’ inactive list on a weekly basis.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” Goodell said in a televised interview with ESPN at the NFL draft late last month in Las Vegas. “The NFL’s personal conduct policy is the issue that we will be focused on. Our investigators are working on that. When they’re complete with that, then they’ll submit it to a disciplinary officer who is selected by the union and management. And they’ll make a decision at that point in time.
“So there’s no timetable on it. Obviously the investigation is still ongoing. We’re going to take it seriously.”
Drew Brees undecided about NBC, return to NFL
The remarkable game of musical chairs among big-name NFL analysts and announcers this offseason took another turn Sunday when Drew Brees addressed a report that he was “done” at NBC — and hinted at a possible return to the NFL.
“Despite speculation from media about my future this fall, I’m currently undecided,” Brees, 43, wrote in a post shared on Twitter. “I may work for NBC, I may play football again, I may focus on business and philanthropy, I may train for the pickleball tour, senior golf tour, coach my kids or all of the above. I’ll let you know.”
Brees took to social media several hours after the New York Post reported he will leave NBC after spending one season as a professional and college football analyst for the network following his March 2021 retirement from the New Orleans Saints.
Citing unidentified sources, the New York Post reported the decision to part ways “seemed mutual” and stemmed in part from Brees’s preference to work in the booth for games rather than in the studio. NBC is set to televise just one NFL game per week this fall and still has longtime game analyst Cris Collinsworth to fill his familiar role on Sunday nights.
Brees spent most of last season as an analyst on NBC telecasts of Notre Dame games and as a studio analyst on Sundays. Brees garnered a notable amount of criticism from observers, some of whom felt he was a bland presence and failed to provide enough insight on important moments.
Mike Tirico will join Collinsworth this season on “Sunday Night Football” after Al Michaels signed with Amazon to call games on Thursday nights with Kirk Herbstreit, a longtime college football analyst for ESPN. Joe Buck and Troy Aikman moved to ESPN for “Monday Night Football” after many years as the top announcing team for Fox Sports. That has left an analyst void at Fox that has yet to be filled — at least until Tom Brady retires and joins Kevin Burkhardt, who was promoted to replace Buck as the network’s No. 1 play-by-play man for the NFL.
Of course, the more intriguing — if seemingly remote — scenario has Brees coming back to play in the NFL. He dropped a further indication of interest with another tweet Sunday evening praising the Saints’ recent free agent additions of wide receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Tyrann Mathieu.
“Man . . . signing [Landry] and [Mathieu] makes me want to come back and play again!!!” Brees exclaimed on Twitter. “Great additions . . . leaders and players!”
Among those taking note of that tweet might have been Jameis Winston, who took over as the Saints’ primary quarterback last year before suffering a season-ending injury and who again is penciled in as the starter in New Orleans. Winston may have to win a training camp battle with the recently acquired Andy Dalton, but that could be a less daunting task than holding off a franchise legend in Brees should the latter decide to again strap on the pads.
Ex-Bills step up in wake of shooting
Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas and several former teammates are coming together in Buffalo this week to help support families of the shooting victims.
Among those players expected to make the trip are Hall of Famers defensive end Bruce Smith and receiver Andre Reed, along with Thomas and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, who like Thomas lives in the area.
“Those guys said right away, `We’ll be here this week because that’s our city. We love it and we want to be supportive,’” Thomas said. “They want to see what they can do and how they can help, because they were really a part of this community for a number of years and they want to continue to help.”
Thomas, who has already pledged $10,000 of support to the victims’ families from his charitable foundation, said it was too early to provide any details of the gathering.
Top NFL assistants recognized
Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and the late Greg Knapp were selected as the Paul “Dr. Z” Zimmerman Award winners by the Professional Football Writers of America.
Frazier and Knapp are the 19th and 20th recipients of the Dr. Z Award, which was instituted by the PFWA in 2014. The Dr. Z Award is given for lifetime achievement as an assistant coach in the NFL. The award is named for Zimmerman, who covered the NFL for 29 years as Sports Illustrated’s lead pro football writer.
Frazier is in his 24th season as a coach in the NFL and his sixth with Buffalo as defensive coordinator. He also has been Bills assistant head coach since 2020. In 2021, Buffalo had the NFL’s No. 1 total defense in yards allowed and the No. 1 scoring defense.
Knapp had just started his 26th season as an NFL assistant coach when he was killed in a bicycle accident in July 2021 after he had joined the New York Jets as passing game coordinator.
He was hired by the 49ers in 1995, and he was San Francisco’s offensive quality control coach (1995-97), quarterbacks coach (1998-2000) and offensive coordinator (2001-03).
Packers, CB Alexander agree on 4-year, $84 million extension
Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander agreed to terms on a four-year, $84 million contract extension with a $30 million signing bonus, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press. ESPN first reported the deal. Alexander, 25, was a second-team selection in All-Pro voting in 2020 but played just four games last season before getting sidelined by an injured right shoulder. Alexander returned to play in the Packers’ 13-10 NFC divisional playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. He led the Packers in passes defensed each of his first three seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2020 and was an alternate in 2019 . . . The Atlanta Falcons signed inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski to a one-year contract, and also added receiver Geronimo Allison to the roster. Kwiatkoski has played in 77 career games with 34 starts in six seasons with the Chicago Bears and Las Vegas Raiders. The 6-foot-2, 242-pounder was a fourth-round pick by the Bears in 2016. The 6-3, 190-pound Allison had 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and six touchdowns in 49 games, including 14 starts, over five seasons with the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.