‘No means no’: Deshaun Watson greeted with hostile chants in NFL return

<span>Photograph: Douglas DeFelice/USA Today Sports</span>
Photograph: Douglas DeFelice/USA Today Sports

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was given a preview on Friday of what road games will be like when he resumes his NFL career full time.

Watson was given a six-game suspension earlier this month by an independent adjudicator after allegations of sexual misconduct involving more than two dozen women. The NFL wants a longer suspension and has lodged an appeal, with the league’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, saying the quarterback had displayed “egregious” and “predatory behavior”.

Watson is still available for pre-season games and made his debut for the Browns on Friday night against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. Fans chanted “no means no” and “you sick fuck” at the 26-year-old. He struggled during his short appearance, completing just one of five passes for seven yards in his first game since January 2021, when he was with the Houston Texans.

Watson has denied any wrongdoing and grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges. He has so far settled with 23 of the women who have filed lawsuits against him. The Browns did not make him available for the media after Friday’s games but Watson earlier issued an apology to the women involved in the allegations.

“Look, I want to say that I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted in this situation,” Watson said in his pregame interview. “The decisions that I made in my life that put me in this position I would definitely like to have back, but I want to continue to move forward and grow and learn and show that I am a true person of character and I am going to keep pushing forward.”

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Browns coach Kevin Stefanski admitted his quarterback had looked nervous during the game.

“I think he probably wants some throws back,” Stefanski said. “Obviously playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important for him to get out there with his teammates in this scheme. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early. But I think he understands what he’s working through.”

The NFL is understood to be seeking a one-year suspension for Watson. He is considered one of the best young quarterback in the league. The Browns traded for him earlier this year after he sat out the 2021 season due to his legal issues and a falling out with his former team, the Texans.

The NFL’s regular season starts on 8 September. If Watson serves a six-game suspension he would return against the Browns’ divisional rivals, the Ravens, in Baltimore where he would face a significantly more hostile crowd than in Jacksonville.