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.
The New York Jets signed free-agent tight end Tyler Conklin to a three-year, $21 million deal this offseason. This coincided with a three-year, $24 million deal for fellow tight end C.J. Uzomah, creating some ambiguity at the position. While it's still early, it seems Conklin is leading the way. Head coach Robert Saleh said, "Conk is awesome. He's been fantastic for us." He further highlighted his three-down skill set, finishing by saying "he's been a pleasant surprise." While it's unknown at this point just how a big of a leap this offense will take, the lead tight end would slot in behind sophomore receiver Elijah Moore and rookie Garrett Wilson as the third option, providing sufficient production to be a weekly streamer with upside.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted rookie tight end Cade Otton 106th overall to join veteran Cameron Brate and future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski. Things changed, however, when Gronkowski announced his retirement, prompting the team to sign veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. There are a lot of bodies to fill this position, but Otton has by far the most upside and untapped potential. Otton has reportedly flashed in camp and gained quarterback Tom Brady's trust, which is typically a difficult task for a rookie. With Chris Godwin (knee) potentially missing time to start the season, Mike Evans (hamstring) currently sidelined and a host of unproven options behind them, Otton has a chance to secure a meaningful role entering Week 1, making him a player to add to your watch list.
New Orleans Saints quarterback/tight end Taysom Hill (ribs) had a limited training camp practice on Monday and mostly did individual drills. It's all part of head coach Dennis Allen's ramp-up process for Hill, who suffered rib injuries early in training camp. The 31-year-old is making the transition from full-time quarterback to tight end this year, so the lost repetitions isn't ideal. Hill will continue to take some snaps under center, but his main contributions will be at tight end, where he's in a crowded room with Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, Nick Vannett and Chris Herndon. Unless quarterback Jameis Winston misses time with another injury, Hill is off the fantasy radar to begin the 2022 season.
Houston Texans tight end Pharaoh Brown lost 18 pounds this offseason after watching film of himself and deciding that he looked slow and unathletic. "He's listed as a tight end, but he can play in line, he can move out," head coach Lovie Smith said. "It's a tough matchup because he has big wide receiver skills. Just another weapon that we have to be able to use." Brown is looking to put up big numbers in a contract year after posting a career-high 23 catches for 171 yards and no touchdowns on 34 targets over 15 games (12 starts) in Houston in 2021. The 28-year-old could be a matchup nightmare when lined up against cornerbacks, but with Brevin Jordan also at the position, Brown can be avoided in most fantasy drafts to begin the season.
Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson (Achilles) is taking snaps with the first-team offense at training camp practice on Monday for the first time all summer, which seems pretty significant, according to SI.com's John Shipley. Robinson is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles suffered last year, and most of the offseason hype has gone to Travis Etienne Jr., who missed all of his rookie season with a foot injury. Robinson, 23, seems to be recovering nicely and has a chance to be ready for Week 1, but it remains to be seen how Robinson and Etienne will co-exist in head coach Doug Pederson's offense. At the very minimum, Etienne will take a significant amount of pass-game work, but Robinson shouldn't be overlooked as an RB3/flex in the later rounds of fantasy drafts.
The Baltimore Ravens reached agreement on a four-year contract extension with kicker Justin Tucker on Monday, which is expected to make him the NFL's highest-paid kicker. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but the Pittsburgh Steelers recently signed Chris Boswell for four years and $20 million, so it should be north of that figure. Tucker is the best kicker in the NFL, racking up five Pro Bowl appearances and five All-Pro nods for Baltimore in his 10 seasons. In 2021, he had a league-high 94.6 field-goal percentage, making 35 of his 37 attempts, including a 66-yarder. The 32-year-old didn't miss a single one of his 32 extra-point tries. Tucker should once again be the first fantasy kicker off the board in drafts.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers won't play in the team's preseason opener on Friday against the San Francisco 49ers. Head coach Matt LaFleur said that Jordan Love will get the start. It's not a big surprise that the 38-year-old future Hall of Famer will be rested in the team's first preseason game, especially after he didn't play at all in the preseason last fall. The Packers are considering giving Rodgers some repetitions in the final preseason game on Aug. 25 against the Kansas City Chiefs this year. With All-Pro receiver Davante Adams gone, Rodgers' fantasy stock has fallen quite a bit to the low-end QB1/high-end QB2 range for the 2022 season.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield has the inside track on the starting job over Sam Darnold to open the 2022 regular season. Mayfield and Darnold opened training camp in an open competition and have been splitting first-team repetitions pretty much down the middle. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport says it's clear that it's Mayfield's job to lose. Darnold might be the more steady and safe option, but Mayfield has more ability and more "wow" plays. Mayfield should only gain more of an edge as he gets a better grasp of the team's playbook as well. The best-case scenario for the Panthers is if Mayfield wins the job outright. In the end, Carolina will be a defense-first team, and whoever wins the QB competition will be just a low-end QB2 for fantasy purposes.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Christian Kirk limped off the field at training camp practice on Monday with a trainer with an undisclosed injury. We'll get you more details when we know what is ailing Kirk. The 25-year-old didn't suit up for the Hall of Fame game last Thursday against the Las Vegas Raiders, and it remains to be seen if he'll play in the team's second preseason game this Friday against the Cleveland Browns. The Jags spent big on Kirk in the offseason to give second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence some more firepower. Consistency might be a problem for Kirk and the rest of Jacksonville's pass-catchers, though, even if Lawrence takes a step forward with new head coach Doug Pederson.
Philadelphia Eagles OT Le'Raven Clark (hamstring), DL Javon Hargrave (groin), CB Jimmy Moreland (ankle), SS Jaquiski Tartt (personal) and CB Kary Vincent Jr. (groin) were added to the injury report and did not practice Sunday, Aug. 7.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt was spotted doing 11-on-11 work during Sunday's practice. The veteran didn't participate in team drills over the last few days and recently requested a trade. However, with the Browns denying the demand, it appears Hunt has already raised the white flag. Although the 27-year-old is listed behind Nick Chubb on the depth chart, a spot he's very familiar with, he has historically been a relatively reliable PPR option due to his pass-catching ability. Still, he's dealt with injuries and off-the-field issues over the years, which remain concerns for fantasy managers heading into the 2022-23 campaign.
New York Giants head coach Brian Daboll reported he expects everyone healthy to suit up for Thursday's preseason opener against the Patriots. Daboll hopes to expose his players to as many live reps as possible, allowing everyone to become familiar with the new coaching staff. Although it's unknown how much work guys like Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor, and Saquon Barkley, among others, will receive versus New England, it will offer a small glimpse of what's to come for fantasy managers heading into the regular season.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has been featured in different parts of the field throughout training camp. In an attempt to exploit opposing defenses this year, head coach Kevin O'Connell, who served as the Rams offensive coordinator last season, plans on utilizing Jefferson the same way Cooper Kupp was showcased in 2021-22. The 23-year-old has been a fantastic addition to fantasy rosters, accumulating 3,016 yards and 17 touchdowns off 196 catches since being drafted in 2020. Although Kupp should continue to be a reliable asset for managers in all formats, Jefferson's skill set could allow him to finish as the year's top fantasy wideout.
Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin isn't a lock to be the No. 1 option on the depth chart. With the Dolphins having a crowded backfield consisting of Salvon Ahmed, Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, and Raheem Mostert, it's anyone's guess who has the edge during training camp, especially with head coach Mike McDaniel remaining non-committal to reporters. While Gaskin may end up as McDaniel's preferred runner, it's unlikely he'll be a week-to-week fantasy option this season. As a result, fantasy managers may want to avoid this situation altogether, although Gaskin, Edmonds, Mostert, and Michel could have some potent showings in 2022-23.
Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs isn't on the trade block, at least for now. After the 24-year-old was on the field for multiple series throughout the exhibition bout against the Jaguars, rumblings began to swirl about a potential move. However, head coach Josh McDaniels was quick to squash any rumors, indicating his preference to subject his players to "live hits" during the preseason, which can't be replicated at practice. Jacobs, whose fifth-year option was declined this offseason, had a down year running the ball in 2021, finishing with only 872 yards and nine touchdowns off 217 carries. Yet, he compiled a career-high 54 catches for 348 yards. While some fantasy managers expect the Alabama alum to bounce back this season, doing so may prove difficult with Kenyan Drake and Zamir White forecasted to also receive touches out of the backfield.
Seattle Seahawks CB Sidney Jones (concussion) remained sidelined at practice on Sunday, Aug. 7, due to a concussion.
Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt shocked many when he decided to request a trade from the organization. He started skipping team drills in camp while he seeks a new contract. The organization has responded by fining Hunt and declining his request for a trade. This ultimately might backfire on Hunt since the Browns do have depth at the running back position. Nick Chubb is a stud and D'Ernest Johnson has proven himself to be a capable option. The Browns would likely move Hunt if the team received real assets in return. However, it seems unlikely that the Browns are going to move Hunt just because he requested a new deal.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been on the trade block all offseason long. Despite that, there doesn't appear to be a clear trade partner for the veteran quarterback. At this point, it sounds like the team is fine with waiting until cutdown day to make a final decision on Garoppolo. There isn't much of a market for Garoppolo, so the team is waiting to see if another quarterback suffers an injury in camp. It's also worth noting that Garoppolo is working his way back from injury, so that could be part of the reason his trade market is slow. Regardless, fantasy managers shouldn't expect this situation to be resolved anytime soon.
Free-agent DBs Darryl Roberts (Commanders), Daryl Worley (Ravens) and Ken Crawley (Saints) worked out for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, Aug. 7.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. could very well move up the depth chart quickly during training camp. The rookie wideout has reportedly hit the ground running in Chicago. The Bears took Jones in the third round, so clearly they believe in his ability on the field. It's also worth noting that Byron Pringle (quad) and N'Keal Harry (ankle) are sidelined right now. The Bears have little reliable depth, so they might be forced to use Jones to begin the season. He'll be a possible late-round target on draft day.