With training camp set to begin, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson would love nothing more than to return to the field as he prepares for the upcoming NFL season. But with the disturbing number of sexual assault accusations that were levied against him in March still unresolved, not only is his season in potential jeopardy, but this entire ordeal is about to get even uglier.
ESPN reports that of the 22 women who have alleged in lawsuits that the three-time Pro Bowler either sexually assaulted them or engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with them during private massage sessions, eight of them have filed reports with the Houston police. According to Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, two additional women who have not filed previous lawsuits against Watson have filed complaints with the police as well, bringing the grand total of police complaints to 10.
“There are 10 women that have made complaints to the [Houston] police,” Hardin told ESPN. “There are a couple of women who we don’t know anything about. We’re fully cooperating with the police. We’re fully cooperating with the district attorney’s office and, when the criminal investigation is over, we’ll fully cooperate with the NFL.”
Watson has yet to be interviewed by NFL investigators, and Hardin maintains that this is typical of criminal proceedings.
In January, Watson’s contentious relationship with the Texans came to a head when he demanded a trade. In order to retain their franchise cornerstone, Houston refused to grant his request, only for their relationship to become further strained—and infinitely more complicated—after Watson was flooded with sexual assault allegations in March. Houston police have declined to comment on the accusations, as well as their ongoing investigation into them, but Hardin maintains that if a settlement is reached with the accusers it will not include a confidentiality agreement.
“I do not want anybody to be saying that this guy paid off women to stay quiet,” Hardin told ESPN. “So if there ever was a settlement of any kind it would have to be public and therefore both sides, [Watson] and the women, would be able to say to the world at large whatever they wanted.”
Hardin said that he has been in communication and has exchanged documents with the accusers ahead of depositions from the plaintiffs that are set to begin in September. Watson won’t be deposed until February of next year, which leaves Watson, the Texans, and the NFL with a handful of options moving forward.
Houston has shifted its stance and is now willing to unload its embattled quarterback for “a combination of five high draft picks and starting-caliber players,” which, at this point, seems inevitable. But other options include Watson being suspended (which seems unlikely given the status of the ongoing lawsuits), Watson skipping out on training camp (don’t expect this to happen either, since he already reported on Sunday), the Texans excusing him from practice to avoid a media circus, or Commissioner Roger Goodell putting Watson on the exempt list. Should Goodell decide on the nuclear option, Watson would be unable to play but would continue to collect a paycheck.
Watson is one of the best signal-callers in the league and prior to being accused of sexual assault he would’ve had teams tripping over themselves for his services. But with his future shrouded in uncertainty as his legal issues continue to mount, he’s a problem that no team in its right mind would want to be associated with—including the Texans.