A story that set the NFL ablaze before smoldering out has been sparked once again. With the Texans reporting to training camp, star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who is currently embroiled in a disturbing sexual assault case, is expected to attend.
This is surprising news to say the least. Watson demanded a trade from the Texans before allegations of sexual assault by 21 masseuses were levied against him. That civil case remains ongoing. No criminal charges have been filed against Watson as of yet. Watson has denied any wrongdoing.
Watson could have been fined up to $50,000 for every day of mandatory minicamp he missed, which Adam Schefter indicated was the reason he's showing up. Regardless of the motivation, this puts the NFL and Texans in a very precarious position.
Because of the alarming nature of the allegations against him and the fact that multiple women have come forward publicly to make said allegations, the NFL and the Texans now must decide whether they're willing to let Watson suit up for practices and preseason games. If they sit idly by and let him practice and play as normal, they send a message. If they make a decision, they send a message.
The NFL could put him on the Commissioner exempt list, which would allow Watson to be paid but not participate in practice or games. He could still attend meetings, work out and receive treatment at the facility. But not allowing him on the field is a big statement by the league.
Or perhaps the Texans don't want him around the team at all. With a civil case hanging over him like a dark cloud and his stated and restated desire to leave the organization not exactly what you want for a rebuilding team with a new GM and coach, they could tell him to stay away.
Either option is tenuous because of the uncertain nature of the allegations. No new allegations or movement in his current civil case have occurred over the last few weeks. The NFL has said it is monitoring the situation but hasn't stepped in with any ruling yet. The Texans previously said they wouldn't trade Watson, though that outcome seems more likely now. Everything is up in the air currently and a false move could lead to further complications.
Whatever is decided must be done quickly. Watson has forced the Texans and NFL's hands by showing up to camp. Either way, this situation has come to a head and there's no clear path forward for any party.