Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Now that the Super Bowl is over and the Rams have their first championship in Los Angeles under their belt, the NFL offseason has officially begun. It was in mid-March of last year when the Houston Texans’ offseason took a serious turn as their star quarterback, Deshaun Watson, became the Defendant in 22 civil lawsuits as well as the subject of both Houston Police Department and NFL investigations. As a result, Watson did not see the field at all in the 2021-2022 season.
Meanwhile, Texans head coach Lovie Smith is hoping to trade Watson ahead of the new league year starting on March 16. Smith recently spoke to Albert Breer of SI.com and indicated he wants a resolution to Watson’s status:
“As soon as possible. I’m not running away from the question, but as soon as possible,” Smith said. “There are things that need to be taken care of before the football part comes into play. We’re patient, we’ve waited an entire year and I just feel like this offseason, it’ll come to an end and we’ll get it solved and it’ll be good for both parties, whatever that might be. There’s no other answer to give right now except for that one, and we’re going to try to get it resolved as soon as we possibly can. But we don’t play tomorrow. We have a little bit of time, and we’ll get it done.”
It is apparent that where Watson’s football career is headed largely depends on the current legal proceedings in which Watson is accused of sexual assault and sexual misconduct. But contrary to Smith’s [and Watson’s] wishes, the legal process may not be over as soon as they would like.
Unbeknownst to many, there are signs that the Watson case has taken a new turn as of late. On February 3, 2022, one plaintiff—a professional masseuse who lives in Houston—filed her Second Amended Complaint to include an additional allegation.
Specifically, this plaintiff amended her complaint to include an allegation that goes beyond Watson just asking for an inappropriate massage. A copy of the complaint with the new allegations highlighted is below.
Filing an amended complaint with new allegations is not something a Plaintiff would do if they were about to settle a case. An Answer has not yet been filed.
Interestingly, this plaintiff was one of the few who was not highlighted in Watson’s Original Answer filed in April 2021. While Watson generally denied all of the allegations set forth in each of the separate lawsuits, Watson’s Answer also included a section titled “Problems with Plaintiffs’ Allegations” to support his belief that the plaintiffs’ claims were not true or accurate. This section directly named 16 of the 22 women in relation to the following assertions:
A. After the massage therapy sessions with Mr. Watson, Plaintiffs bragged about, praised, and were excited to massage Mr. Watson.
B. Plaintiffs willingly worked, or offered to work, with Mr. Watson after the alleged incidents.
C. Plaintiffs lied about the number of sessions they actually had with Mr. Watson.
D. Plaintiffs lied about their alleged trauma and resulting harm.
E. Plaintiffs told others they wanted to get money out of Mr. Watson.
F. Plaintiffs have scrubbed, or entirely deleted, their social media accounts and the relevant evidence they contained.
This new development comes ahead of Deshaun Watson’s deposition, which is scheduled to take place on February 22, 2022. As a reminder, a deposition is used to gather information and facts by way of a witness’s sworn out-of-court testimony. While Watson’s attorneys may object to questions throughout the deposition, very few objections actually stop the question from going forward. Unless Watson "pleads the Fifth" (which would be quite suspicious), he will be forced to answer questions under oath, including any related to the new allegations detailed above.
While the Texans would prefer to trade Watson sometime soon, I'd suggest all NFL teams hold off on those discussions for now.
Stephanie Weissenburger is an Associate Attorney at Geragos & Geragos. Stephanie is the Website Manager for Conduct Detrimental and co-host of "Miss Conduct" (@sportslaw on TikTok). You can find her on Twitter @SWeissenburger_ and Instagram @Steph_ExplainsItAll