Deshaun Watson’s best play in his preseason debut with the Browns came long before he took the field in Jacksonville.
Watson apologized Friday “to all the women I have impacted” after being accused by two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
Potentially facing a year-long suspension, Watson publicly expressed remorse and contrition for the first time since he was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting the women during therapy sessions in 2020 and 2021.
“Look, I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson said before the team’s exhibition opener, a 24-13 victory against the Jaguars. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”
The three-time Pro Bowler completed 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards in his first game action since Jan. 3, 2021, with Houston. Watson was roundly booed during three series of work. Fans in one end zone could be heard chanting vulgarities at Watson during his first drive.
Watson managed no first downs and 7 yards while playing without receiver Amari Cooper, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and offensive linemen Joel Bitonio and Jack Conklin. Starting center Nick Harris, who is replacing NFLPA president and salary-cap casualty JC Tretter, went down on the second play with a right knee injury.
Watson has denied any wrongdoing, and grand juries in two Texas counties declined to indict him on criminal complaints. He settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits.
He’s still facing discipline from the league, which is appealing independent arbiter Sue L. Robinson’s six-game suspension. The retired federal judge concluded Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy with “egregious” and “predatory” behavior. As part of her ruling, Robinson noted Watson’s lack of remorse.
The NFL is seeking a full-season ban along with a significant fine over $5 million and wants Watson to undergo evaluation and treatment before he could be reinstated. The appeal is now with Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey attorney general appointed by commissioner Roger Goodell.
There’s no timetable on Harvey’s decision. It’s also possible the sides could work out a settlement.
Jets’ Wilson hurts knee
Jets quarterback Zach Wilson injured his right knee in the first quarter against the Eagles.
After going back to pass, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled to his right for 7 yards, but went down after the play. He appeared to injure his knee when planting to cut on Philadelphia’s grass field.
After being checked by trainers, Wilson limped to the sideline on his own power before heading to the locker room. After the game, Jets coach Robert Saleh said the initial tests on Wilson showed the ACL “is supposed to be intact,” but the team is waiting for the MRI on Saturday.
There are high hopes this year for the 23-year-old Wilson, who was drafted No. 2 overall last year. He had an up-and-down rookie season, throwing nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games, but went without an interception in his final five games.
Wilson was shaky in his first series against Philadelphia’s starters, going 1 for 3 for 10 yards with an interception.
Ridder rallies Falcons in debut
Rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jared Bernhardt with 1:30 left to give the Falcons a 27-23 win over the Lions.
The Lions took a 23-20 lead on Riley Patterson’s 28-yard field goal with 5:57 to play, then forced Atlanta into a three-and-out. Detroit quarterback David Blough, though, fumbled at his 33 with 2:00 left.
Facing fourth-and-9 from the 21 with 1:37 left, Atlanta coach Arthur Smith decided to avoid preseason overtime. Ridder dodged two pass rushers and Bernhardt fought off Cedric Boswell’s coverage attempt to make the catch just inside the end zone.
Ridder replaced Marcus Mariota after one drive and finished 10-for-22 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed six times for 59 yards, as Atlanta put up 168 yards rushing and just 139 passing.
Payouts approved for Black retirees
Two years after a pair of former players sued the NFL over the treatment of Black retirees in the league’s $1 billion concussion settlement, hundreds of men whose medical tests were rescored to eliminate race bias now qualify for awards.
The newly approved payouts, announced in a report Friday, are a victory for NFL families in the decade-long legal saga over concussions. The 2020 lawsuit unearthed the fact the dementia tests were being “race-normed” — adjusted due to assumptions that Black people have a lower cognitive baseline score. Changes to the settlement made last year are meant to make the tests race-blind.
The new results will add millions to the NFL’s payouts for concussion-linked brain injuries. A league spokesman did not return a phone call Friday or respond to emails sent in recent weeks seeking comment on the rescoring.
Of the 646 Black men whose tests were rescored, nearly half now qualify for dementia awards. Sixty-one are classified as having early to moderate dementia, with average awards topping $600,000; nearly 250 more have milder dementia and will get up to $35,000 in enhanced medical testing and treatment, according to the claims administrator’s report.
Lynch lawyers dispute DUI charges
Las Vegas police released body-camera footage showing the lead-up to the arrest of former NFL running back Marshawn Lynch, who was booked Tuesday on charges of driving under the influence. In a statement, Lynch’s lawyers disputed the charges.
In one clip released Thursday, Lynch appears to be asleep at the wheel of a black Ford Mustang with its front left tire missing. In another, Lynch is sitting in the driver’s seat surrounded by officers.
In the latter, Lynch tells officers that the car is not running before an officer tells him to get out of the vehicle. Shortly after, an officer drags Lynch out of the vehicle before he is handcuffed.
Lynch was charged with driving under the influence, failure to surrender proof of security, driving an unregistered vehicle and failure to drive in the travel lane, per Las Vegas Municipal Court records. He was released on bail and is scheduled for a Dec. 7 court date.
Lynch’s attorneys, Richard Schonfeld and David Chesnoff, disputed the accusations in a statement to local television station KLAS.
“Marshawn was not pulled over for a DUI. Rather the vehicle was safely parked and not in operation,” the statement said. “We are confident that when all evidence is presented, this will not be a DUI under Nevada law. Marshawn appreciates and is thankful for everyone’s concern and support.”
Dawson enters hospice care
Len Dawson, the 87-year-old Hall of Fame quarterback who led the Chiefs to their first Super Bowl title, has entered hospice care in Kansas City. KMBC-TV, the Kansas City station where Dawson began his broadcasting career in 1966, confirmed he is in hospice care through his wife, Linda. The MVP of the Chiefs’ 23-7 Super Bowl victory over Minnesota in January 1970, Dawson was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 and received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award in 2012 . . . Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has tested positive for COVID-19 and will not play Sunday in the team’s first preseason game. Coach Kevin O’Connell confirmed the diagnosis. Cousins felt ill Thursday and was sent home. He has “very minimal” symptoms, O’Connell said. Sean Mannion and Kellen Mond will split time in the exhibition at Las Vegas.