Whatever Deshaun Watson or the lawyers say, what matters is how the NFL and the courts will rule: Terry Pluto

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns were wise to bring Deshaun Watson in front of the media Tuesday at minicamp.

They needed their fan base to see the guy who convinced them to make such a huge investment in terms of a record-breaking guaranteed contract and a trade of six draft choices with Houston. Watson seemed better prepared and more at ease than he was on March 25, when he first faced the media after joining the Browns.

His basic stance remains the same: He’s done nothing wrong in his dealings with multiple massage therapists. As of now, 26 reportedly have filed civil suits against him. Their lawyer is Tony Buzbee, who has been waging a public relations campaign to strengthen their case.

Watson needed to let people see and hear him as he presents his side.

“I’ve been honest and I’ve truthful with my stance,” he maintained. “I never forced anyone, I never assaulted anyone.”

Two criminal grand juries refused to indict him. The next step in the legal process is civil court. That sometimes leads to out-of-court settlements. Since coming to Cleveland, Watson’s stance has been he’s out to “clear my name.” He is not talking about any settlements – although they were offered last year when he was in Houston.

I have written several columns dating back to before the Houston trade was even made, begging the Browns not to add Watson.

Too much off-field baggage…

Too high of price in terms of six draft picks…

Too much money in the fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million deal that includes a no-trade clause…

Too much unknown when it comes to how the NFL will rule about a possible suspension.

WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE?

Watson is now with the Browns, so it doesn’t matter what I or anyone else said about the move. It’s done. Now, lawyers on both sides are working the media and taking their case to the public. The Watson interview is part of that.

The real work right now is happening in the NFL, where a decision must be made about Watson’s playing status for 2022. Will he be suspended? If so, for how long?

I find it impossible to guess what the NFL will do. Tom Brady was given a four-game suspension for deflating footballs. Myles Garrett received six games for hitting Pittsburgh QB Mason Rudolph in the head with a helmet during an on-field brawl. Calvin Ridley is suspended for the entire 2022 season for betting on the NFL, but is not accused of fixing any games.

How about putting Watson on paid leave for all of 2022 as the NFL sorts through all the cases and aspects of his situation? That was something suggested by Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio. It seems like a possible solution, buying more time for both sides.

But from a football perspective, it would leave the Browns wondering when they will have Watson. If the NFL decides to wait for the results of the civil trials, those are not set to open until March 2023.

“I can’t control [what the NFL will rule],’’ said Watson. “I did everything they asked me to do. I answered every question truthfully that the NFL asked me. That’s all I can do is be honest and tell them exactly what happened. I know they have a job, and I have to respect that and that’s what we wanted to do is cooperate. They have to make a decision that’s best for the league.”

Watson is correct. It’s up to the NFL. At this point, it’s doubtful anything said in a public forum by either side will have a significant influence in the league’s decision.

RECENT TERRY PLUTO COLUMNS

Houston also part of the Watson mess and NFL must investigate the Texans

Terry’s Talkin’ Podcast: Watson, future stars for Guardians, what about Colin Sexton?

Are Browns still “comfortable” with Watson now?

A Watson Free Zone: Answering questions from fans

Cigar box money & teaching drivers ed: The Mike Fratello story

What I’m hearing from Browns OTAs about passing game

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