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.
Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines has been hyped up all offseason as the Colts look to get him more involved in the passing attack in 2022. According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, Indy expects at least 60 receptions from Hines. The 25-year-old has caught 63 passes in a season twice, including his rookie year in 2018. His total of 40 catches for 310 yards and one touchdown were all career-lows, but the addition of quarterback Matt Ryan should change that. Jonathan Taylor will remain the team's bell-cow back on early downs for good reason, but the Colts will use Hines plenty as a pass-catcher, making him an intriguing RB3/4 with upside in point-per-reception fantasy leagues. For what it's worth, head coach Frank Reich recommends picking up Hines in fantasy drafts.
Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett said that running back Melvin Gordon III (foot) is dealing with a foot injury that the team is managing. As a result, he didn't take part in training camp practice on Wednesday. Gordon's injury doesn't seem very serious at all, so it shouldn't be anything to worry about with the team's first preseason game coming this Saturday. The 29-year-old re-signed with Denver this offseason, to the disappointment of Javonte Williams backers, and the new coaching staff is expected to once again use the two backs in tandem in 2022. Williams is the more explosive back and should be considered the 1A in this backfield, but Gordon remains a thorn in his side. At best, Gordon will be an RB3/flex and handcuff for those that roster Williams.
Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that wide receiver Tee Higgins (shoulder) is ready to go, but the team is taking it slow with him in training camp. "He looks good," Taylor said. Higgins should rejoin the Bengals offense in team work at camp next week. The 23-year-old pass-catcher had labrum surgery in March, which has kept him off the field so far this offseason, but he's still expected to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season. He took a step forward in his second season in 2021, going for 74 receptions (110 targets), 1,091 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 14 regular season games. Despite plenty of options for quarterback Joe Burrow through the air, Higgins is one of his favorite targets and should be considered a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 in fantasy football.
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said that wide receiver DeVonta Smith (groin) remains day-to-day, but he'll miss his fifth straight training camp practice on Wednesday. Smith suffered a minor groin injury in practice late last week and is being held out as a precaution. The Eagles starters are expected to see a series or two of work in the preseason opener this Friday against the New York Jets, but it remains to be seen if Smith will play. The 23-year-old had 64 receptions for 916 yards and five touchdowns in 17 games in his rookie season, but the addition of No. 1 wideout A.J. Brown will take targets away from the second-year wideout. Still, Smith could make plenty of noise if the Eagles devote more attention to their passing game and quarterback Jalen Hurts takes a step forward as a passer. Smith should be considered a WR3 with upside in fantasy football drafts.
The San Francisco 49ers signed former New Orleans Saints cornerback Ken Crawley to an undisclosed one-year deal on Wednesday. Crawley played in only six games with the Saints last year and had three solo tackles. He hasn't played in double-digit games in an NFL season since 2018 due to injuries and will be hoping to latch on in San Francisco as secondary depth. The 29-year-old has a total of 138 tackles (125 solo), four tackles for loss, two interceptions, 32 passes defensed, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in his six NFL seasons.
New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson will play one to two series in the preseason opener against the Philadelphia Eagles this week. If Wilson takes the offense down the field on the first drive, he'll likely be done for the day. The second-year quarterback has had an inconsistent training camp this summer, but more pieces are in place in the aerial attack for the 23-year-old to take a step forward in Year 2. There will likely still be growing pains along the way, but Wilson should have a higher fantasy football season in 2022, providing that the offensive line doesn't collapse in front of him. In fantasy football leagues, he should be considered a low-end QB2 with upside this year.
Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Simi Fehoko and Noah Brown have been pleasant surprises in training camp since James Washington (foot) went down with injury. Fehoko has consistently come up big in practices, especially in the red zone, using his size and speed to create space on deep balls or to make contested catches in traffic. The 24-year-old only played seven offensive snaps all year and played in just five games as a rookie in 2021, but he looks ready to contribute in Year 2. Considering how thin the Cowboys are at the position with injuries to Washington and Michael Gallup (knee), Fehoko could have a role early on alongside CeeDee Lamb, rookie Jalen Tolbert and Brown.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen looks more like his previous self in training camp this summer, and his play is reminiscent of his most productive stretch from 2016 to 2018. Over that time period, Thielen made his only two Pro Bowls and totaled 273 receptions on 387 targets for 3,616 yards and 18 touchdowns in 48 games. In the last three seasons, he's been limited by injuries and has put up 171 catches on 251 targets for 2,069 yards and 30 touchdowns. While his production has fallen off, his touchdown production hasn't, and the Vikings are expected to continue using him as a red-zone weapon in 2022. Coming off ankle surgery that ended his 2021 season early, the 31-year-old should be a WR3 with touchdown upside in this pass-happy offense.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver K.J. Osborn may have advanced more than any other play in training camp this summer, and his role in the offense is expected to grow heading into his third NFL season. If Adam Thielen continues to be hampered by injuries in 2022, Osborn has a chance to break out. The 25-year-old made a nice leap in his sophomore season, going from zero targets in nine games in 2020 to 50 catches on 82 targets for 655 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. Osborn will likely go undrafted in most standard 12-team fantasy football leagues, but he's in the clear lead for the No. 3 receiver job in Minnesota and could be an early season waiver-wire darling.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kellen Mond has struggled at training camp and has thrown interceptions consistently. He's also operating with poor timing and checks down far too often, even in two-minute drills. When he's been forced off platform, his accuracy plummets and he often underthrows wide-open receivers. Mond has yet to win a situational drill in camp this summer. Sean Mannion hasn't played very well either, but he's been much more consistent than Mond. The Athletic's Arif Hasan wouldn't be surprised if the Vikings stick with Mannion as the direct backup to Kirk Cousins to open the regular season.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky is believed to have the inside track to win the starting job in training camp over Mason Rudolph and rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett. This was the expectation going into training camp, and it's still the case despite the fact that Trubisky hasn't exactly looked great in practices so far. It's still technically an open competition and the Steelers haven't officially named Trubisky the starter, but that's the way that things appear to be headed. He's taken almost all of the first-team repetitions When Week 1 rolls around, it will almost certainly be Trubisky under center for Pittsburgh. But he won't have a long leash if he struggles, and he'll be a low-end QB2 in fantasy football.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson continues to have an incredible training camp this summer, and opposing cornerbacks have done little to limit him. He is winning on every route in every situation. It's no secret that Jefferson will be the focus of the offense, and camp practices have reflected that. Adam Thielen is also looking more like his previous self, with his play more reminiscent of his most productive stretch from 2016 to 2018. Thielen has had some injury-shortened seasons recently. K.J. Osborn could also play a bigger role in the offense in 2022, and he may have improved more than any other player in camp. Jefferson has 196 catches on 292 targets for 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two NFL seasons. Once Cooper Kupp comes off the board in fantasy football drafts, Jefferson should be right behind him.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver/returner Jakeem Grant Sr. (Achilles) has been confirmed to have suffered a torn Achilles in training camp practice on Tuesday, and he'll miss the entire 2022 season. In addition to being a Pro Bowl return man, Grant was hoping to have an expanded role in the passing attack in his first year in Cleveland. The 29-year-old will be a major loss for the Browns' special teams unit this year, as well as the team's receiver depth behind Amari Cooper, rookie David Bell and Anthony Schwartz. With Grant done for the year, Demetric Felton will have an opportunity to earn a kick-return role on special teams now. Rookies Michael Woods II and Mike Harley Jr. could see more chances out of the slot, too, if anything were to happen to Bell this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage (ankle, foot) limped off the field at training camp practice on Wednesday with what might be a left ankle or foot injury. Gage was injured during one-on-one drills. We'll have more on Gage's injury once we know more, but for now, consider him day-to-day. The recent addition of veteran Julio Jones wasn't great news for the 26-year-old's chances of a prominent role in the Bucs' passing offense, although Gage could still see ample targets if Chris Godwin (knee) isn't ready by Week 1 of the regular season. Top wideout Mike Evans (hamstring) has also been slowed at camp by a minor injury. If Gage's injury isn't too serious, he'll still be attractive as a late-round upside selection.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver/returner Jakeem Grant Sr. (knee) has been confirmed to have suffered a torn ACL in training camp practice on Tuesday, and he'll miss the entire 2022 season. In addition to being a Pro Bowl return man, Grant was hoping to have an expanded role in the passing attack in his first year in Cleveland. The 29-year-old will be a major loss for the Browns' special teams unit this year, as well as the team's receiver depth behind Amari Cooper, rookie David Bell and Anthony Schwartz. With Grant done for the year, Demetric Felton will have an opportunity to earn a kick-return role on special teams now. Rookies Michael Woods II and Mike Harley Jr. could see more chances out of the slot, too, if anything were to happen to Bell this year.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith (groin) sat out practice last Thursday and has now been described as day-to-day by head coach Nick Sirianni. Smith had a fantastic rookie season, finishing with 64 receptions for 916 yards and five touchdowns. Smith's stock took a hit when the team traded for A.J. Brown, but he still projects to be very involved. Smith was seen working on the sideline but did not participate in practice on Wednesday. Smith will likely be more volatile for fantasy this season now that Brown is the alpha in the offense. He'll compete with Brown and tight end Dallas Goedert for targets but will still be a top-36 option and could finish inside the top 24 if the overall passing volume goes up for the Eagles.
Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (shoulder) received a massive quarterback upgrade during the offseason when the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson. Sutton and teammate Jerry Jeudy are expected to form an exciting tandem this season. Sutton had his foot evaluated in practice on Sunday and was reported to have "a little shoulder thing we're just working through" in practice on Tuesday. Neither injury seems major, and the fact that he was still able to participate in practice is a good sign, but it would be beneficial for Sutton to be getting reps with Wilson to establish a strong rapport. Sutton will be a top-30 fantasy receiver this year, with a chance to crack the top 15 if he dominates the targets in this offense.
Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. are both expected to take part in Friday's preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. Head coach Doug Pederson said he will let the starters play in a couple of series. Neither of them participated in the Hall-of-Fame game last Thursday, so this will be their first on-field action together. Etienne missed his entire rookie season with a Lisfranc injury, essentially making this his rookie year. Etienne is currently competing with James Robinson (Achilles) to be the lead back in this offense and is expected to have a big role in the receiving game, adding to his fantasy value as a top-24 option, especially in PPR leagues.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts led his team to the playoffs last year and is expected to take a big leap in 2022. Hurts possesses exceptional athleticism, which makes him dangerous as a dual-threat quarterback, but he has received a lot of criticism regarding his skill set as a passer. Hurts received an exciting new weapon this offseason when the Eagles traded for wide receiver A.J. Brown. Hurts, along with the rest of the starters, is expected to play one or two series in Friday's preseason opener, according to head coach Nick Sirianni. Hurts is locked in as a top-12 option for fantasy football and has top-five upside because of his rushing ability, especially if he improves as a passer.
Denver Broncos WR Courtland Sutton (shoulder) is currently dealing with a shoulder injury.
Fantasy Spin: It does not appear to be a serious issue, and Sutton probably will only miss a few practices. He will see a good amount of targets each game this season and can be at least a No. 3 receiver.