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Report: ‘Many’ NFL Insiders ‘Assume’ Deshaun Watson Will Be Placed on Paid Leave

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The expectation among “league insiders and observers” is that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson will be placed on paid leave as he faces 22 pending civil lawsuits that accuse him of sexual misconduct in four different states, according to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. 

As it stands, Watson would be able to participate in the 2021 season should commissioner Roger Goodell and the Texans organization allow him to do so. Per Florio, his deposition won’t take place until at least Feb. 22, 2022—nine days after the Super Bowl is scheduled. 

A pre-trial status conference is slated for May 2, 2022. 

The league’s policy on paid leave is detailed, but Florio notes that one section in particular applies to Watson’s current situation.

The policy states that a player can be placed on paid leave “when an investigation leads the Commissioner to believe that a player may have violated [the personal conduct policy] … This decision will not reflect a finding of guilt or innocence and will not be guided by the same legal standards and considerations that would apply in a criminal trial.” 

New details surrounding the lawsuits were revealed in a report from Sports Illustrated‘s Jenny Vrentas, Greg Bishop and Gary Gramling on Friday. All 22 of the lawsuits claim “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” and 21 are suing him for civil assault, which includes indecent assault, assault and harassment. 

In April, massage therapist Ashley Solis said Watson “assaulted and harassed” her during a massage therapy session that took place at her home. 

“I can no longer practice the profession I love the most without my hands shaking during the session,” she said. “I got into massage therapy to heal people. To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that.” 

According to Sarah Barshop of ESPN, a member of attorney Tony Buzbee’s team—which represents the 22 women—had reached out to Watson’s side to explore “working things out” between the two sides, an allegation that Buzbee denied. 

If Watson is away from the team at any point of the season, the Texans can turn to Tyrod Taylor or third-round draft pick Davis Mills at quarterback. 

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