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.
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Cincinnati Bengals kicker Evan McPherson doesn't appear to have lost a step heading into the 2022 campaign. The fifth-round kicker had a surprising breakout campaign last season. Now, there is more pressure on McPherson with everyone watching as he has become one of the more reliable kickers in the game. On Friday, McPherson connected on all three of his field goal attempts in the preseason loss to the Arizona Cardinals. His long on the day was a 58-yarder, so he appears to be in mid-season form. It looks like McPherson is going to be one of the better kicking options in fantasy leagues once again.
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Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Jake Browning completed 13-of-24 passes for 190 yards and gained 14 rushing yards on four carries in Friday's preseason 36-23 loss against the Arizona Cardinals. He saw extended action on Friday after a concussion knocked Brandon Allen out of the game. The 26-year-old averaged 7.9 yards per attempt but didn't lead the Bengals offense to their first touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. If Allen misses any regular season games, Browning could be Cincinnati's top backup quarterback to Joe Burrow.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Chris Evans rushed for minus three yards on eight carries while catching his only target for nine yards in Friday's 36-23 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The 24-year-old drew the start with both Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine being held out. He logged 14 snaps but could not muster any positive yards with his eight rushing attempts. However, Evans did have a 75-yard touchdown run called back due to a penalty. Evans is currently third on the RB depth chart and will compete with Perine to be Mixon's primary backup in 2022. The Michigan product is worth a late-round flyer as he could have a vital role in an explosive offense if Mixon were to go down with an injury.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiverZay Jonescaught two of four targets for 47 yards in Friday's 24-13 preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns. Jones flashed his growing rapport withTrevor Lawrenceearly on as he hauled in a 32-yard catch on the first pass the Jaguars attempted. The former second-round pick signed with Jacksonville this past offseason in hopes of becoming a reliable weapon for Lawrence in the team's aerial attack. WhileChristian KirkandMarvin Jones Jr.are considered safer options at wide receiver, fantasy managers shouldn't overlook Jones in the Jaguars' new-look offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars tight endEvan Engramcaught one of two targets for nine yards and a touchdown during Friday's 24-13 preseason defeat to the Cleveland Browns. On Jacksonville's final drive with the starters on the field, quarterback Trevor Lawrence found Engram on a fourth-down play to give the Jaguars their only touchdown of the contest. The athletic tight end is primed to be a go-to weapon for the second-year quarterback if he can put his drop issues behind him. For fantasy managers that are buying into Jacksonville's offense being much better in 2022, Engram doesn't carry many risks in fantasy football due to his late-round ADP.
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Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella led the team with four catches for 57 yards in Friday's preseason opener. The speedy wideout is looking to carve out a role in a crowded wide receiver room, which may be a tall task when you consider the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, and A.J. Green are in the mix for targets. The 25-year-old saw just one target in eight games last season, so it is hard to envision him having any sort of role in the Arizona offense. He is well off the fantasy radar as we inch closer to the regular season.
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