Mon Jun 27 2:53pm ET
By JUAN A. LOZANO
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, in Carson, Calif. The Houston Texans had been told that their former quarterback Deshaun Watson was sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and turned a blind eye to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday, June 27, 2022. Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Texans had been told that their former quarterback Deshaun Watson was sexually assaulting and harassing women during massage sessions, but instead of trying to stop him, the team provided him with resources to enable his actions and ''turned a blind eye'' to his behavior, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
The lawsuit against the team was filed in Houston by one of the 24 women who had previously sued Watson over allegations of sexual misconduct when he played for the Texans. Last week, the women's attorney, Tony Buzbee, announced 20 of the 24 lawsuits have been settled.
Watson, who was later traded to the Cleveland Browns, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to clear his name. Watson is facing discipline from the NFL over the allegations. He is set to have a hearing this week with NFL disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson, who will decide if the 26-year-old violated the league's personal conduct policy. Robinson is expected to rule before the Browns open training camp late next month.
In their lawsuits, the women accused Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will during massage appointments. One woman alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex.
The lawsuit against the Texans accuses the team and some of its employees of having been told or being aware of Watson's troubling behavior. Joni Honn, the owner of a massage company that was contracted with the Texans, told police investigators that her therapists were aware of Watson's ''known tendency to push boundaries during massage sessions,'' according to the lawsuit.
Honn told the Texans, including the team's head trainer, that Watson was reaching out to random women on Instagram for massages in early 2020, according to the lawsuit.
Magen Weisheit, another massage therapist who worked with the Texans, told Houston police investigators she and others were well aware of Watson's conduct during massage sessions. When Weisheit learned of the allegations made against Watson by a woman who filed the first lawsuit against him, she wrote in a text to the woman's former co-worker that she could reach out to the team's player personnel person but ''they don't do much about the situation though,'' according to the lawsuit.
''Despite being actually aware of what can only be described as troubling behavior, the Houston Texans turned a blind eye. Worse, the Houston Texans organization enabled Watson's egregious behavior. The Texans also protected and shielded Watson - for Watson's own protection and the protection of the organization itself,'' according to the lawsuit.
The woman's lawsuit alleges the Texans provided Watson with various resources, including rooms at a Houston hotel, massage tables and a non-disclosure agreement the women were told to sign, that allowed the quarterback ''to further his misconduct with women by turning the massage sessions into something sexual.''
The Texans are also accused of having their head of security remove from the internet an Instagram video from November 2020 in which a woman had detailed alleged misconduct by Watson during massage sessions with her.
In a statement, the Houston Texans did not specifically address the various allegations made against the team.
''We are aware of the lawsuit filed against us today. Since March 2021, we have fully supported and complied with law enforcement and the various investigations. We will continue to take the necessary steps to address the allegations against our organization,'' the Texans said.
Buzbee said the lawsuit against the Texans was the first of many he plans to file against the team.
''Suffice it to say, the overwhelming evidence collected indicating that the Houston Texans enabled Watson's behavior is incredibly damning. We believe the Texans knew or most certainly should have known of Watson's conduct,'' Buzbee said in a statement.
The NFL declined to comment on the lawsuit against the Texans.
''I never assaulted anyone,'' Watson said June 14 in his first public comments since being introduced by the Browns in March. ''I never harassed anyone or I never disrespected anyone. I never forced anyone to do anything.''
In March, two separate Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal complaints stemming from the allegations.
Houston police Detective Kamesha Baker, the lead investigator in the criminal investigation, told Buzbee in a deposition that she believed Watson had committed crimes in the 10 criminal complaints that had been filed against the quarterback. Baker also said that Watson's conduct during the massage sessions was escalating in such a way she believed that he would commit even more serious crimes, according to the lawsuit.
After the grand juries declined to indict, several teams pursued Watson, who agreed to be traded to the Browns. Cleveland signed the three-time Pro Bowler to a five-year, $230 million contract in March.
The four lawsuits still pending against Watson could still go to trial, but that wouldn't happen until 2023 at the earliest.
Dallas Cowboys CB Jourdan Lewis (hamstring) will miss the rest of the preseason because of a hamstring injury. The team hopes he will be ready for the start of the regular season.
New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne won't suit up for Friday's second preseason matchup against the Carolina Panthers. The 27-year-old has already been kicked out of one practice for fighting. Also, Bourne has been seen running with the second-team offense during practice. Now, he's inactive for this contest, which isn't a good look for Bourne. Last season, he finished with 55 receptions, 800 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in 17 games. The Patriots haven't done much to upgrade at wideout this offseason. The assumption is that Bourne would still have a significant role, but possibly he has fallen on the depth chart.
Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Cam Taylor-Britt underwent core muscle surgery and will miss the rest of training camp, according to head coach Zac Taylor. It's uncertain if Taylor-Britt will be ready by the beginning of the regular season. Before going down, the rookie corner was competing for a backup spot on the roster. The Bengals selected Taylor-Britt in the second round, so they expect big things from him. He could very well get a decent amount of playing time once he's healthy. The loss of Taylor-Britt won't make a huge impact because of was projected as a backup, but it still hurts.
New York Giants wide receiver Robert Foster (hamstring) has been placed on the injured reserve. The 28-year-old went down in practice and it appears his season is over before it begins. Foster hasn't taken a snap since he played in four games with the Washington Commanders in 2020. He was mainly rotational depth and a special teams player. That being said, the loss of Foster won't mean much for the Giants at wideout. Keelan Doss was expected to get released, but will remain with the team after the injury to Foster. Doss doesn't bring much to the table and is buried at his position, so he can be ignored in fantasy leagues.
The Baltimore Ravens have signed wide receiver Demarcus Robinson to a one-year deal. The 27-year-old was recently cut by the Las Vegas Raiders. Before that, he spent the beginning of his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has made a fairly minimal impact by failing to reach 500 receiving yards in any of his six professional seasons. Luckily for Robinson, the Ravens don't have a ton of depth at wideout. He'll likely compete for the No. 4 spot with Tylan Wallace. Possibly, Robinson could have deep league appeal, but can be ignored in most fantasy formats.
Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith (knee) suffered a bruised knee during the second preseason game, but head coach Pete Carroll said Smith could have continued playing in the game despite the injury.
Fantasy Spin: It seems like Smith is dealing with a minor injury and may not miss any practice time. He is still considered the favorite for the starting job but can be avoided in most fantasy leagues.
Free-agent WR Demarcus Robinson (Raiders) reportedly agreed to terms on an undisclosed contract with the Baltimore Ravens on Friday, Aug. 19.
Updating a previous report, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady (personal) will return to the team at some point after the team's upcoming preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, according to head coach Todd Bowles. Bowles told reporters Friday, Aug. 19, that he knows Brady exactly when Brady will return to the team following his pre-planned personal absence. 'Do I look worried? I'm not worried, so I don't know why anyone else would be worried. I know exactly when Tom is coming back, and I've consistently said it would be sometime after the Titans game (on Saturday),' Bowles said Friday.
Fantasy Spin: It is only natural that people would wonder about Brady's whereabouts given how much he likes to prepare, but fantasy managers should only care about this story if the 45-year-old is still away from the team at this point next week. Until then, fantasy managers should not hesitate to draft him as a low-end QB1 again with top-five upside in what should once again be a dynamic passing attack.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp won't play in the team's second preseason game on Friday night against the Houston Texans. Along with Kupp, most of the Rams starters will watch from the sidelines to avoid injury. The 29-year-old made his first Pro Bowl and was named a first-team All-Pro during a special 2021 regular season in which he led the league in catches (145), receiving yards (1,947), touchdowns (16) and yards per game (114.5) in 17 games. It earned him the WR1 title in fantasy, and he'll be a top-three wideout early in upcoming fantasy drafts, even with some questions surrounding quarterback Matthew Stafford's (elbow) health.
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski is sticking with his plan not to play quarterback Jacoby Brissett in the second preseason game this Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. Deshaun Watson, who has been suspended for 11 games, won't play in either of the team's final two preseason games, so Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen will see action this weekend. The 29-year-old Brissett will serve as the Browns' starting QB until Watson is eligible to return in December, and Cleveland will be hoping he can simply manage the offense and keep them competitive in 2022. Already a run-first offense, the Browns will most certainly rely on their ground game as much as they can, making Brissett a low-end QB2 in superflex fantasy formats.
New England Patriots wide receiver Nelson Agholor has been very consistent dating back to organized team activities in the spring, and it seems like he's in a good place as far as grasping the offense and earning quarterback Mac Jones' confidence. Agholor disappointed in his first year with the Pats in 2021, catching only 37 of his 64 targets for 473 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games. There have been reports that he's a trade candidate and he's in a crowded receiving corps alongside Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and rookie Tyquan Thornton. However, with a better grasp of the offense in 2022 and with more chemistry with Jones, Agholor could bounce back. Still, he'll probably go undrafted in most standard-sized fantasy leagues.
Cleveland Browns DE Myles Garrett (personal) practiced for the first time all week Friday, Aug. 19, after missing the team's previous four sessions to tend to an ill family member.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said he's not going to get into the extent of running back Miles Sanders' hamstring injury, adding that Sanders has tightness and soreness and that the team is being "precautious with him." Sanders missed another training camp practice on Friday, but it sounds as though this isn't a long-term injury that will cause him to miss the start of the regular season. It's unlikely that the 25-year-old will play this Sunday in the second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Sanders had a career-high 5.5 yards per carry in 12 games in 2021, but he failed to find the end zone and will need to hold off Kenneth Gainwell and Boston Scott in Philly's backfield. Sanders' fantasy stock continues to fall as more of an RB3/flex.
According to Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, quarterback Dak Prescott is having the best training camp of his career this summer. "Velocity, his accuracy, the whole thing. Obviously, as the quarterbacks get older, they get better. The good ones do. They get better every year. There's no question in my mind, I think he's had his best training camp he's ever had," Jones said. It's good to hear, but fantasy managers probably aren't considering Prescott an elite QB1 this year with Amari Cooper now in Cleveland and with the Cowboys lacking experienced depth behind No. 1 wideout CeeDee Lamb. But Michael Gallup (knee) will return eventually, and Prescott is still a top-10 fantasy signal-caller.
Indianapolis Colts rookie tight end Jelani Woods looked hesitant early on in training camp and was dropping passes, but he's slowly made progress and the Colts are counting on him to be the third tight end behind starters Mo Alie-Cox and Kylen Granson now that fellow rookie Andrew Ogletree (knee) is done for the season. Indy is throwing a lot at Woods now and will narrow his role during the regular season. He has made strides as a blocker and probably had the best day catching passes on Thursday. The 23-year-old has a massive frame and could be a mismatch down the field, and although he might make an impact here and there in his rookie season, he'll only be an option in the latter rounds of rookie-only fantasy drafts.
No player has flashed more often in Indianapolis Colts training camp than wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. this summer, and the third-year pass-catcher looks primed to break out and build off his 1,000-yard season in 2021. The Detroit Lions didn't have an answer for him all week in two joint practices. With quarterback Matt Ryan under center in 2022, the Colts offense will evolve to more parts of the field, which will help Pittman become a more dynamic weapon. Pittman is unlikely to play in the second preseason game against Detroit, but he's becoming more and more attractive as a fantasy receiver with WR1 upside this season. As of right now, the Colts receiver pecking order appears to be Pittman, rookie Alec Pierce, Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin.
The Athletic's Zak Keefer gets the sense that the Indianapolis Colts kicking job is Rodrigo Blankenship's to lose in training camp. Jake Verity missed an extra point in the preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills, which is close to a death knell in a kicking competition. Blankenship went 5-for-5 and hit a 55-yarder in Wednesday's practice, while Verity went 4-for-5 and badly missed his 55-yard attempt. Barring a collapse, Blankenship will be the team's Week 1 kicker. The 25-year-old played in only five games in 2021 due to a hip injury. With Indianapolis' offense looking to have a higher ceiling with quarterback Matt Ryan under center, Blankenship is worth a look as a low-end kicking option in fantasy leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott (head) has returned to the practice field. The 27-year-old missed over a week of practice due to a concussion. Luckily, he is back on the field and competing in practice. Last season, Scott finished for 373 yards with a career-high seven touchdowns through 16 games with the Eagles. Despite that, he'll probably end up as the third string behind Kenneth Gainwell and Miles Sanders. Honestly, this seems like a frustrating situation all around. The Eagles could very well use a committee approach in the backfield. Scott might only have deep league value, but that could quickly change with an injury.
Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker has been named the starter for the second preseason matchup against the New England Patriots. This is an odd move with Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield battling it out for the starting gig. The Panthers are reportedly playing their second and third string players against New England. The organization has not named a starter for Week 1 yet. The expectation is that it will be Mayfield against his former team. Walker will likely fall into the third string role for Carolina, but might still see some snaps. Regardless, it's tough to imagine him having fantasy value with Darnold and Mayfield healthy.
New York Jets quarterback Joe Flacco has reportedly been on fire during training camp, according to Zack Rosenblatt. The veteran quarterback completed 10 straight passes during 11-on-11 practice. Overall, Flacco finished the day 14-of-17 with four touchdowns, all of them came in the red zone. It's uncertain if Zach Wilson (knee) will be ready in time for Week 1. That being said, the Jets will likely start the season with Flacco under center. Honestly, Flacco might be a better fantasy option than Wilson, but fantasy managers shouldn't get too excited. The 37-year-old is probably only worth a look in superflex leagues.