Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson returned to the field Sunday for the first time in 700 days, and while he didn't have the best performance, he helped lead the team to a 27-14 win over the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium.
While speaking with reporters after the game, Watson admitted that his return to the field against his former team was "tough" and that his move from Houston "had to happen."
James Palmer @JamesPalmerTV
Deshaun Watson commenting on playing back here in Houston. Also said leaving the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Texans?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Texans</a> was a business decision and “had to happen”. <a href="https://t.co/24DZudh0UD">pic.twitter.com/24DZudh0UD</a>
Watson did not play at all during the 2021 season, when he was still a member of the Texans, after requesting a trade from Houston and facing more than 20 allegations of sexual misconduct during massage sessions.
Twenty-four civil lawsuits with allegations of sexual assault and misconduct were filed against Watson. He agreed to settle 23 of those lawsuits and has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
After being traded to the Browns, which gave him a record-shattering $230 million contract in March, the NFL launched an investigation into the claims against Watson and found he violated the league's personal conduct policy.
Watson was suspended for the first 11 games of the 2022 season, fined $5 million and had to undergo mandatory evaluation and treatment. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the quarterback has shown "signs of progress" in his treatment program.
A source told Schefter:
"He's been progressing well and he wants to continue with it, and they feel it's helping him. It's just sort of ongoing as needed, and it'll be ongoing until it's not needed anymore. And I think it's given him a lot of help and support. But this could take a while."
Watson was booed heavily in his return to Houston on Sunday, and he struggled in his first action in more than a season and a half. He completed just 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards, no touchdowns and an interception, in addition to rushing for 21 yards on seven carries.
When asked about being booed after the game, Watson replied: "They’re supposed to boo. I’m a Cleveland Brown now, and we’re on the road. So they’re supposed to boo."
Watson, a 2017 first-round pick, spent the first four seasons of his career in Houston. He went 28-25, completing 67.8 percent of his passes for 14,539 yards and 104 touchdowns against 36 interceptions, in addition to rushing for 1,677 yards and 17 touchdowns.
With Watson out to begin the 2022 campaign, the Browns opted to start Jacoby Brissett, who completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards and 12 touchdowns against six interceptions in 11 games. He also rushed for 238 yards and two scores.
With Watson back, he's expected to be Cleveland's starter for the remainder of the 2022 season and beyond.
The Browns are 5-7 and will be back in action on Dec. 11 against the Cincinnati Bengals.