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.
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones and the rest of the first-team offense are not expected to play in Thursday's preseason opener against the New York Giants, according to Mike Reiss of ESPN. Brian Hoyer and rookie Bailey Zappe will get some playing time with Jones not suiting up, so the two will need to battle to earn the backup job behind the former Alabama collegiate star. Zappe has been impressive during his first training camp with the team and has a good opportunity to show what he can do in a game situation. The fourth-round pick out of Western Kentucky is likely the best option for any preseason DFS tournaments
Chicago Bears wide receiver N'Keal Harry (ankle) will undergo tightrope surgery on Thursday after suffering a high ankle sprain and is expected to be held out of action for eight weeks. The 24-year-old was looking for a fresh start in Chicago after being acquired from New England, as the former first-round pick couldn't live up to expectations with his former team. Harry played three seasons with the Patriots, racking up just 57 receptions for 598 yards and four touchdowns. With a thin wide receiver room in Chicago, Harry likely could have earned some playing time as the depth chart seems to be wide open behind Darnell Mooney locked in as the No. 1 option. When he returns to action, the newly-acquired wideout will be competing with Byron Pringle, Velus Jones Jr., and Equanimeous St. Brown for targets, which will keep him off the fantasy radar for now.
Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff said that wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is his go-to receiver. "I'm looking for him when things break down, and I'm looking for him when we need a play. Right now, he's that guy," Goff said. In his rookie year in 2021, St. Brown emerged as the Lions best receiver, catching 90 of his 119 targets for 912 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games (nine starts). The 22-year-old should remain a big part of Detroit's offense this year, but there will be some more competition for targets, namely DJ Chark, who has looked good in training camp. Rookie first-rounder Jameson Williams (knee), might not be ready for the start of the year, but he'll eventually have a role as well. St. Brown should still have big games, but he might not be the target hog he was in 2021. Target him as a WR3 in fantasy football drafts.
Dynasty | There have been no substantial talks between the Vikings and Alexander Mattison in terms of a contract extension. Dynasty Analysis: Mattison has always fared very well as the backup to Dalvin Cook, but it seems Minnesota is unwilling to pay two different running backs big contracts. While Mattison wouldn't cost nearly as much as Cook, it would be easy to argue he'd be a better value. Regardless, it looks like Mattison may end up as a free agent at the end of the season and he'd be in line for a nice value increase should that come to fruition.
Dynasty | Damien Harris could be traded ahead of roster cuts, according to Sports Illustrated. Dynasty Analysis: Any ticket out of New England would be good for Harris, who is stuck in Patriot purgatory, sharing a backfield with the likes of Rhamondre Stevenson, James White, Ty Montgomery, Pierre Strong, JJ Taylor, and Kevin Harris. There's simply no way the Pats can keep everyone in this group and it appears they've soured on Harris, our RB32. If Harris stays, expect his value to dip even further. Dynasty managers should be hoping for a deal.
Free-agent cornerback Deandre Baker worked out for the Cardinals on Wednesday. Baker was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Giants and finished his rookie year with 61 total tackles (48 solo) and eight passes defensed. However, after he was charged with four counts of armed robbery in May 2020, New York opted to part ways with him. The charges were eventually dropped, and he went on to appear in 10 games for the Chiefs over the last two seasons before being released in August of 2022. Nonetheless, Baker has proven he has more than enough to play at the professional level. Yet, even if he ends up signing with the Cardinals, he may not receive enough playing time to become a viable IDP fantasy option.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Julio Jones has already established a rapport with Tom Brady. During Wednesday's joint practice session with the Miami Dolphins, the duo continued to look in sync, with Brady connecting with Jones on a well-placed deep ball. Fantasy managers were undoubtedly let down by the veteran wideout over the last few years. However, with arguably the greatest signal-caller ever targeting Jones throughout the season, he should have more than enough chances to get back on track, despite guys like Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Leonard Fournette looking to stay involved.
New England Patriots running back Damien Harris is rumored to be on the block. The Pats are reportedly taking calls, and it comes after the 25-year-old finished the 2021-22 campaign with 929 yards and 15 touchdowns off 202 attempts. If Harris does remain in New England, he's expected to share touches with Rhamondre Stevenson, which won't do his fantasy outlook any favors. However, if the Alabama alum gets traded, Stevenson's fantasy value should increase significantly, especially with James White (hip) still on the shelf.
Free-agent wide receiver Chris Lacy inked a deal with the Raiders on Wednesday. Lacy was introduced to the NFL after the Patriots signed him in 2018. After being waived, he went on to suit up for the Lions, where he appeared in eight unproductive games over two seasons. Since then, he has made stops in Dallas and Chicago. Nonetheless, it's unknown if the 26-year-old will be on the roster come Week 1. However, even if he is, he isn't expected to do much to benefit fantasy managers.
The Saints released running back Malcolm Brown on Wednesday, only a few weeks after inking a contract with the team. The 29-year-old played his first six years in the league with the Rams, finishing with 11 touchdowns during that span. However, after signing a one-year deal with Miami last offseason, he went on to play just seven games for the Dolphins before landing on injured reserve. Brown is a capable runner, so he may draw interest from other teams throughout the NFL. Still, even if he signs with another club this season, he's not expected to receive enough touches to make any noise on the fantasy end.
Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson isn't expected to play during the preseason opener versus Dallas. "I don't think so," responded head coach Nathaniel Hackett when asked if the multi-time Pro Bowler would suit up on Saturday. Considering Wilson has been in the league since 2012, Broncos fans may not see him on the field until Week 1 for the Monday Night Football showdown against his former team, the Seattle Seahawks. Josh Johnson and Brett Rypien are currently listed behind Wilson on the depth chart, so they'll likely get more than enough work to warrant DFS consideration.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan will start during Saturday's preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills. The veteran, who was traded by the Atlanta Falcons in March, could see up to a quarter of action, according to head coach Frank Reich, giving him more than enough upside in DFS formats. It will also offer fantasy managers a glimpse at how Ryan captains the Colts' offense.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said the plan is for quarterback Jalen Hurts and the starters to play one or two offensive series in the preseason opener on Friday night against the New York Jets. The Eagles will be without left tackles Jason Kelce (elbow) and Jordan Mailata (concussion), but Hurts will play anyway. Second-year receiver DeVonta Smith (groin) is unlikely to play after missing his fifth straight training camp practice on Wednesday. There remain concerns about whether Hurts can improve as a passer, but the Eagles are expected to pass more with No. 1 wideout A.J. Brown now in town, and Hurts has top-five fantasy upside at the position after finishing the 2021 season as the QB10.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed former North Texas running back Deandre Torrey after his workout on Wednesday, according to a source. Torrey will be added to a running back room in training camp that already includes Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Jason Huntley and rookie Kennedy Brooks. In his final season in college, Torrey had 1,329 scrimmage yards and 14 total touchdowns, but his size (5-foot-7, 195 pounds) likely led to him being passed up in this year's NFL draft. He'll simply hope to impress the rest of camp in order to win a spot on the team's practice squad entering the regular season.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor confirmed on Wednesday that quarterback Joe Burrow (appendix) won't play in the team's preseason opener on Friday against the Arizona Cardinals. Burrow remains without a timetable to return to training camp after undergoing an appendectomy on July 26. However, he was seen making some light throws at practice on Monday. It wouldn't be a surprise if the 25-year-old didn't suit up at all in the preseason, but he is fully expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. After leading a talented Bengals offense all the way to the Super Bowl in just his second NFL season, Burrow will be a strong QB1 target in fantasy football.
Indianapolis Colts offensive tackles Matt Pryor and Bernhard Raimann are battling for the starting left tackle job this summer after the team moved on from veteran Eric Fisher. Neither player is an ideal candidate for the left tackle spot, as Pryor has never been a full-time left tackle and Raimann is a rookie. Pryor is getting the first-team repetitions and has held up fine, while Raimann is off to a slow start in training camp. Pror isn't as agile as Raimann, but at 6-foot-7, 332 pounds, he has power. The offensive line has been a strength of the Colts in recent years, but the left tackle spot could be an issue for this offense and quarterback Matt Ryan.
Green Bay Packers rookie second-round wide receiver Christian Watson (knee) continues to be sidelined at training camp as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. With Watson sidelined, rookie fourth-rounder Romeo Doubs has really stepped up in practices and has impressed quarterback Aaron Rodgers will consistent "wow" plays. The Packers are hoping to get Watson back on the field next week, but he's missing crucial repetitions to gain chemistry with Rodgers, who is notorious for being hard on rookie pass-catchers. The 23-year-old still has time to get ready before the start of the regular season, but all the time missed so far makes it more likely that he won't be a consistent producer early in the 2022 season.
The Chicago Bears removed linebacker Roquan Smith from the Physically Unable to Perform list on Wednesday. Smith has requested a trade and is holding in during training camp due to contractual issues, and he's not expected to begin practicing despite coming off the PUP list. It remains to be seen if the Bears trade him or give him a long-term contract extension before the 2022 regular season. Either way, the 25-year-old will be in play as the first linebacker off the board in IDP fantasy drafts. In 17 games for the Bears last year, he had a career-high 163 tackles (95 solo), three sacks, 12 tackles for loss, four QB hits, an interception returned for a touchdown and three passes defensed to finish as the No. 4 fantasy linebacker.
New England Patriots second-year quarterback Mac Jones and the offense continue to struggle in training camp this summer. The defense has far outplayed the offense so far in camp, and The Athletic's Chad Graff thinks it's fair to be worried about the offense heading into the 2022 season. ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss thinks it wouldn't be a surprise if Jones doesn't play in the preseason opener on Thursday night against the New York Giants based on practices this week. The Patriots are replacing offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who held the position for the last decade. It's still early, but neither the running game nor the passing game has gotten going. It's not great news for the fantasy stock of anyone in this offense, including Jones, who should be viewed as a low-end QB2 in 2022.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson is scheduled to start the team's preseason opener on Friday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars, along with most of the rest of the starters, as long as he isn't suspended indefinitely by then. The NFL has appealed Watson's six-game suspended, which was handed down by Sue L. Robinson, and they are pushing for a season-long suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. The 26-year-old wouldn't be allowed to practice during training camp or play in preseason games if he's given a year-long ban. Watson has been accused of sexual misconduct by 30 massage therapists during appointments in 2019 and 2020, when he was with the Houston Texans. At the very least, Watson will be suspended for six games in 2022, making him more of a low-end QB2 target in fantasy drafts.