Despite a ruling that he should be suspended for the first six games of the 2022 regular season, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will play in the team's first preseason game Friday.
The Browns announced Wednesday that Watson is scheduled to start against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
If Watson plays Friday, it will be his first game action since the end of the 2020 season. The 26-year-old sat out the entire 2021 season while facing allegations of sexual assault or misconduct in civil lawsuits filed by 25 women. The alleged behavior occurred during massage sessions while Watson played for the Houston Texans.
One of the lawsuits was dropped because the plaintiff had privacy concerns. In March, two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges. Watson has since reached settlements on 23 of the remaining 24 lawsuits.
Former federal judge Sue L. Robinson made the decision on Watson's suspension, saying she relied on precedent and stating his actions did not "fall into the category of violent conduct that would require the minimum six-game suspension." The NFL has appealed the decision, and commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the league believes at least a one-year suspension is warranted.
"We've seen the evidence, she was very clear about the evidence, she reinforced the evidence," Goodell said. "There were multiple violations that were egregious, and it was predatory behavior."
Former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey has been appointed to oversee the NFL's appeal, but Goodell said Tuesday he's unsure when a ruling will come.