Deshaun Watson is still facing lawsuits from several massage therapists who have alleged sexual misconduct. He also remains under investigation by the NFL, but he reported to the Houston Texans on Sunday. Could that be a sign that Watson is going to be cleared to play this season?
There has been speculation all offseason that the NFL might put Watson on the commissioner’s exempt list. Some expected that move to come before training camp, but it doesn’t appear that is going to happen. As NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero notes, the NFL’s personal conduct policy states that a player can be placed on the commissioner’s exempt list when an investigation leads the commissioner to believe a major violation has occurred. Yet, Watson still remains active.
Here's the language in the 2020 personal conduct policy regarding use of the commissioner's exempt list. The NFL hasn't used the designation with Deshaun Watson, indicating the league's ongoing investigation hasn't led Roger Goodell to believe a major violation occurred. pic.twitter.com/bKwiKPS7Ow
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 25, 2021
That could mean very little. We don’t know how far along the NFL is with its investigation, though it has been several weeks now. It would also stand to reason that the league would prefer to provide some clarity on the situation before training camp. If nothing else, the fact that he has not been suspended or placed on the exempt list yet is positive news for Watson.
Watson has not been criminally charged. The lawsuits against him have the potential to drag into next year, but the NFL does not have to wait for them to play out in order to make a ruling. While the expectation has been that Watson will face some sort of suspension, the situation remains in flux.
Watson still wants the Texans to trade him, and at least one team may be interested in acquiring the 25-year-old.