Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has reportedly started the counseling mandated under terms of his 11-game suspension for sexual misconduct.
Peter King of NBC Sports reported Watson started the counseling in the aftermath of the NFL and NFLPA reaching a settlement on the terms of his suspension. Completing the counseling is among the conditions required for Watson to be reinstated.
Despite agreeing to the suspension and settling 23 of the 24 civil lawsuits filed against him, Watson has refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.
"I've stood on my innocence and always said that I've never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone, and I'm continuing to stand on that," Watson told reporters last week. "But at the same time, I have to continue to push forward with my life and my career. For us to be able to move forward, I have to be able to take steps and put pride to the side. I'm going to continue to stand on my innocence and keep pushing forward."
King reported the Browns are hopeful Watson "will understand what he either doesn’t understand or a denial he has been continually fed by his enablers—that he did nothing wrong."
Two grand juries declined to press criminal charges against Watson, and only one civil lawsuit remains unsettled. The most concrete opinion on Watson's situation came from former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who handled the initial arbitration between the NFL and NFLPA.
In recommending a six-game suspension, Robinson wrote, "the NFL carried its burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Mr. Watson engaged in sexual assault (as defined by the NFL) against the four therapists identified in the Report."
Barring Watson having to testify in the one remaining civil suit, the matter appears to have come to a murky close. The NFL's settled its investigation, no criminal charges are coming and it's a virtual certainty the settled lawsuits came with a non-disclosure agreement.
Assuming Watson completes the league-mandated counseling and avoids any further issues, he will be able to continue his NFL career starting Week 13 against the Houston Texans.