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.
Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker III is expected to see a ton of snaps as a rookie. Head coach Pete Carroll mentioned the team would feel comfortable with Walker as a three-down back. The second-round rookie is currently competing with Rashaad Penny for the No. 1 role in Seattle. It sounds like Penny is ahead of Walker right now, but that could quickly change before the beginning of the season. Regardless, Walker is likely to make a significant impact during his rookie campaign.
New York Giants wide receiver Kadarius Toney (knee) won't suit up for the preseason opener. The young wideout is currently dealing with a knee injury that has kept him out of practice. This doesn't sound like a serious injury, but the Giants are going to play it safe. Toney should be fine within a week, but fantasy managers should continue to monitor this situation. He could have some WR3 appeal, but it depends on if the Giants can actually get him the ball.
Seattle Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny (groin) is unlikely to suit up for the preseason opener. He is feeling some minor groin tightness, so the organization is going to be cautious with him. This doesn't sound like a serious issue, but any soft-tissue injury is noteworthy. Kenneth Walker III will see more snaps without Penny available, but hopefully Penny won't miss significant time. Walker appears to be behind Penny on the depth chart, but there is still time for that to change.
Dynasty | Patriots running back James White has retired after eight seasons. Dynasty Analysis: One of the most underrated weapons in fantasy football, White is choosing to walk away after battling injuries over the past couple of seasons. While his career total of 1,278 rushing yards isn't exactly eye-popping, he was a PPR monster with 381 career catches for 3,278 yards and scored a total of 36 career touchdowns. His retirement could open the door for Ty Montgomery, but the Patriots backfield is always a quagmire.
Dynasty | Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams won't be ready for the season opener. Dynasty Analysis: This was pretty much expected after Williams tore his ACL in the National Championship game. Dynasty managers are going to need to be patient, though they should also be happy the Lions aren't pushing his recovery. Williams will likely miss at least the first month of the season, but he should be available to help dynasty teams towards the end of the year. He remains our overall 6th ranked rookie and that could actually prove to be a bargain.
The Cleveland Browns could look to trade for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo if Deshaun Watson's six-game suspension is to be increased after the NFL appealed the initial ruling. The 30-year-old is on the trade block after the 49ers handed the keys to their 2021 third overall pick Trey Lance, but there hasn't been a ton of interest in the veteran. With Jacoby Brissett currently in line to start in Watson's absence, Garoppolo would be an upgrade for the Cleveland offense, which in itself is a good reason to consider a trade. After posting 3,810 passing yards and 20 touchdowns in 2021, Garoppolo can be valued as a QB2 option with a limited ceiling for fantasy managers if he is to be acquired by Cleveland.
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery (undisclosed) is considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. The 25-year-old is not expected to play in Saturday's preseason opener, however, Montgomery will be back "pretty fast," according to head coach Matt Eberflus. Upon his return to action, Montgomery will lead the Chicago backfield with sophomore Khalil Herbert as the No.2 option in what could be an improved offense from an abysmal 2021 season. Still, the fourth-year back figures to be more of a low-end RB2 with a limited ceiling despite having a significant potential workload.
Chicago Bears tight end Cole Kmet (undisclosed) is considered day-to-day with an undisclosed injury, per head coach Matt Eberflus. The injury is not a cause for concern, however, Kmet is not expected to play in the team's preseason opener on Saturday. In his absence, Ryan Griffin and James O'Shaughnessy should get the most action at tight end, as the two will battle it out for the TE2 role in the Chicago offense. Upon Kmet's return to action, the 23-year-old is a potential breakout candidate as he will likely have a large workload in the Chicago offense that lacks receiving threats. After seeing 93 targets in his sophomore season, Kmet should be one of Justin Fields' go-to targets once again and has low-end TE1 appeal for fantasy managers.
New England Patriots wide receivers Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, DeVante Parker and rookie Tyquan Thornton have regularly been taking first-team repetitions in training camp. The Patriots think Thornton has earned first-team reps and they want to see how he responds to the increased workload, according to a team source. If Thornton proves himself, the Pats will have too many high-priced receivers, especially since they're mostly expected to use two tight-end sets. A source close to the situation expects one of the team's veteran receivers to be traded or released, and that source thinks Agholor is the prime candidate. He's been productive through two weeks with the offensive schematic changes, but he might be the odd-man out. The best-case scenario for Agholor in fantasy and real life might be a trade out of New England.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky will start Saturday's preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, according to head coach Mike Tomlin. Although Trubisky hasn't really impressed all that much to this point in training camp practices, he remains the favorite to open the regular season as the starter under center for Pittsburgh. Mason Rudolph and rookie first-rounder Kenny Pickett will follow Trubisky in the first preseason game this weekend. The 27-year-old Trubisky will likely play only the first quarter against Seattle. While he'll open the year as the Week 1 starter, what happens after that remains to be seen, and he's unlikely to have a very long leash if he's not playing well early on.
Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel said he's "encouraged" by the idea of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa not playing in the team's preseason opener on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although the Dolphins have a new coaching staff and new offense under McDaniel this year, it's still pretty typical for NFL teams to rest most of their starters early in the preseason. With a top-two duo of Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle now at his disposal in the passing attack, Tagovailoa is expected to take a step forward in Year 3. There's certainly QB1 upside with a game-changing player like Hill now in the fold, but until he proves it, Tagovailoa will be drafted as a QB2 with upside in most fantasy football leagues.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich said that quarterback Matt Ryan will play the first quarter of the team's preseason opener on Saturday against the Buffalo Bills. A lot of NFL teams are resting their starters in the first week of preseason action, but the Colts want to see Ryan operate the offense heading into his first season with the team. The 37-year-old has been impressive and decisive so far in training camp practices, and he should be an upgrade over what Carson Wentz gave them in 2021. It's good news for all of the Colts offensive weapons, perhaps most notably running back Nyheim Hines, who the Colts want to get more involved in the short passing game. The Colts will remain a run-first squad with running back Jonathan Taylor around, but Ryan should be a steady QB2 presence for fantasy managers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said that quarterback Tom Brady won't be back with the team until after the preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, which is on Aug. 20. Brady wasn't at training camp practice on Thursday for personal, non-football reasons. The 45-year-old GOAT will miss some valuable time to gain chemistry with the likes of receivers Russell Gage and veteran Julio Jones, but he'll probably be just fine in the long run. In his absence, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask and Ryan Griffin will get more work with the offense in practices and preseason games. Fantasy managers shouldn't be too concerned right now, as Brady is expected to be ready to go by Week 1 of the regular season.
Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott said that quarterback Josh Allen won't play in the team's preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Even with Ken Dorsey stepping in to replace Brian Daboll as the team's offensive coordinator in 2022, the Bills are comfortable sitting Allen out of the first preseason action. The 26-year-old finished as the QB1 in fantasy football last year by throwing for 4,407 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, adding 763 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 122 rushing attempts. As a result, he should be the first signal-caller to come off the board in the early rounds of your upcoming fantasy drafts.
New England Patriots running back James White announced his retirement from professional football on Thursday on his official Twitter account. White played in just three games in 2021 due to a hip injury that he was still attempting to come back from this summer. The 30-year-old former fourth-rounder will now hang up his cleats and will finish his eight-year career (all with the Patriots) with 381 catches (511 targets) for 3,278 yards and 25 touchdowns, adding 1,278 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 319 carries in 95 games. With White out of the picture in 2022, it will mean bigger roles for Rhamondre Stevenson, Ty Montgomery and rookie Pierre Strong Jr.
Detroit Lions rookie first-round wide receiver Jameson Williams (knee) will miss Week 1 of the regular season. The Lions aren't putting a public timetable on Williams' return. 'We're going to be very smart with him," general manager Brad Holmes said. "He's in a good place right now." The 21-year-old tore his ACL last December in college, and he won't be ready for the start of the regular season. There's also a chance he'll miss up to the first four games of the season if he remains on the Non-Football Injury list to open Week 1. Williams will cost a pretty penny in dynasty/keeper leagues, but he'll be nothing more than a late-round flier in redraft formats in 2022. Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark will be Detroit's top two pass-catchers for much of the year.
Miami Dolphins running back Chase Edmonds looks like the favorite to lead the backfield this season, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Edmonds has adapted well to the Dolphins' new offensive scheme, which is something that tailors well to his speed and explosiveness as a ball carrier. The backfield is crowded as of now, with Raheem Mostert, Sony Michel, as well as Myles Gaskin, who is on the roster bubble, in the mix. Still, Edmonds could return fantasy managers RB3/flex value as he should see a significant workload early on. If Mostert or Michel, who have missed their fair share of action in the past, miss any time this season, Edmonds could vault into RB2 territory.
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard could have an increased role in his fourth season, as the team has made it known that they would like to get their dynamic playmaker more involved. The 25-year-old has been working in the offseason as a slot receiver, which would mean that he and Ezekiel Elliott could be on the field at the same time, something that we have not seen much of during his first three years with the team. With the Cowboy's wide receiver room more shallow than last season, it may be a necessity that Pollard takes on a bigger role in the passing game. "In the offseason, during the season, it's not going unnoticed. Guys are noticing the things that I can do with the ball to help the team, just knowing that I can contribute more and more to the team." As one of the most explosive weapons on the Dallas offense, a significant role as a receiver would mean some standalone value for Pollard as an RB3/ FLEX option. If his running mate misses any time, his fantasy value would skyrocket.
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.