Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has complied with the terms of his 11-game suspension, according to the NFL, and officially will be eligible Monday to play his first game of the season next weekend against his former team, the Houston Texans.
Watson’s impending return means quarterback Jacoby Brissett is expected to make the last of his 11 starts to open this season Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Watson’s debut with the Browns next Sunday will be exactly 700 days since he last played in a regular-season game with the Texans on Jan. 3, 2021. He is one day away from completing the terms of his suspension, which was reached via settlement by the NFL and NFL Players Association on Aug. 18.
Watson was suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the NFL, on massage therapists. He was also fined $5 million and has had to undergo a mandatory treatment program.
Watson has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and other inappropriate sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Over the summer, Watson agreed to settle 23 of the 24 lawsuits against him. A 25th lawsuit was dropped by the plaintiff when the judge ruled that her petition had to be amended with her name. Two other women filed criminal complaints against Watson but did not sue him.
Watson has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and said people haven’t been interested in hearing his side of the story. He still hasn’t spoken publicly since his suspension was announced.
The Browns traded for Watson in March, sending the Texans three first-round draft picks. Cleveland also signed Watson to a five-year deal worth $230 million guaranteed, the richest contract in NFL history.
Watson returned to participate in practice with the Browns on Nov. 16 and has been allowed to sit in on team meetings and work out at the team’s training facility since Oct. 10. He will become the sixth quarterback in the past 15 seasons to make his debut against the team he last played for, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the third to do it this season, joining Baker Mayfield and Russell Wilson.
ESPN’s Jake Trotter contributed to this report.