‘The whole situation changed me’

Deshaun Watson feels like he is in a “different space” entering this fall with the Cleveland Browns now that his suspension is behind him.

Watson played in just six games for the Browns last season following his 11-game suspension, which marked his first year in Cleveland.

“Feel really well, feel really good, comfortable being around the guys, the locker room, the coaching staff, the organization and just the city of Cleveland,” Watson said Sunday in West Virginia, via ESPN’s Jake Trotter. “So having an opportunity to go into the season with a full offseason, locked in, focused, it definitely feels good, and I want to continue to keep channeling and cherishing all that energy and positive energy that’s been spread around this organization.”

The Browns traded for Watson in 2022 amid the NFL’s investigation into more than 20 accusations that Watson had sexually harassed and assaulted massage therapists. Watson was eventually suspended for 11 games, fined $5 million and forced to enter a mandatory treatment program.

Watson has since settled nearly two dozen lawsuits filed against him, and two grand juries in Texas declined to pursue criminal charges. There are still two active lawsuits against him.

Watson played the final six games of the season for the Browns last year, which marked his first appearance on the field in 700 days. Watson threw for 1,102 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions in six games last season. In 2020, his last full year, Watson threw for a league-high 4,823 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for 11 games last season after more than 20 women accused him of sexual misconduct.

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for 11 games last season after more than 20 women accused him of sexual misconduct. (AP/Chris Carlson)

“The whole situation changed me,” Watson said of his suspension, via ESPN. “In a situation where I just had to lock in on myself, channel and really know who I’m surrounding myself with and just really who’s going to be there and support me even when I’m at my lowest point and the last few years were definitely my lowest point in my life. But that’s part of life. I just grow from it, I learn from it. I continue to move forward and push forward and continue to show my real character, my real personality and who I am.”

Despite the allegations and suspension, the Browns signed Watson to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal — which marked the highest guaranteed money sum in NFL history.

The Browns went just 7-10 last season and missed the playoffs for the 19th time in the last 20 seasons. The team started training camp at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, this weekend.

“I think this is going to be a big year for him, professionally and personally,” general manager Andrew Berry said, via ESPN. “We think he’s in great shape physically. He’s been really good on the field. And I love what he’s done off the field. So very excited about him.”