El quarterback de los Browns de Cleveland Deshaun Watson responde preguntas la sesión de prácticas del equipo el martes 14 de junio del 2022. (AP Foto/Ron Schwane)

Following a week of back-and-forth negotiations, former Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, the NFLPA and NFL came to a settlement on punishment on Thursday for more than two dozen sexual misconduct claims against him.

Watson, who is now the Cleveland Browns quarterback, will serve an 11-game suspension and must pay a $5 million fine. Watson when will be eligible to play in Week 13 when the Browns come into NRG Stadium to face his old team and fans.

“I’m grateful that the disciplinary process has ended and extremely appreciative of the tremendous support I have received throughout my short time with the Browns organization,” Watson said in a released statement Thursday. “I apologize once again for any pain this situation has caused. I take accountability for the decisions I made.”

Last week, former federal judge Sue L. Robinson ruled that Watson should sit out six games and no fine for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after being sued by 24 massage therapists. But NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, under the Collective Bargaining Agreement guidelines agreed to by the NFLPA, effectively squashed the proposed punishment by appealing Robinson’s ruling.

Goodell appointed former New Jersey attorney general and federal prosecutor Peter Harvey to preside over the appeal process.

Goodell told reporters last week that Watson’s actions warranted a full season suspension, describing his actions as “egregious and predatory.” Watson was said to be willing to settle for an eight-game suspension.

Clearly, neither side got exactly what it wanted prior to the negotiations.

“Deshaun has committed to doing the hard work on himself that is necessary for his return to the NFL,” Goodell said Thursday. “This settlement requires compliance with a professional evaluation and treatment plan, a significant fine, and a more substantial suspension.”

Since Robinson announced her ruling early last week, there had been calls for a stiffer punishment for Watson despite two grand juries declining to indict Watson criminally for his alleged conduct with some of the massage therapists. Watson has also settled out of court 23 of the 24 lawsuits against him.

Many felt Watson, who sat out all of last season with the Texans after the allegations came to light, should serve at least a year suspension, if not an indefinite suspension from the NFL.

Those same people were outraged when the Browns completed a trade for Watson this offseason and gave him a new five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract.

Browns owners Jimmy and Susan “Dee” Haslam defended their decision and their quarterback on Thursday, vowing that he deserves a second chance like everyone else.

“Is he never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? And that’s what we’re going to do,” Jimmy Haslam said.”That doesn’t mean we don’t have empathy for people affected and we will continue to do so,” he added. “We believe that Deshaun Watson deserves a second chance.”

Watson has maintained his innocence since controversial figure and Houston attorney Tony Buzbee first brought the initial lawsuit during the winter of 2021. Watson didn’t relent Thursday.

Watson hasn’t played a regular-season game since 2020 but did make his debut with the Browns during last Friday’s preseason opener against Jacksonville. The team announced Thursday that he will sit out the final two preseason games.

“I’m moving on with my career and my life, and I’m going to continue to stand on my innocence,” Watson said Thursday. “Just because settlements and things like that happen, doesn’t mean that person is guilty for anything.”

He added, “I feel like the person has the opportunity to stand on his innocence, and prove that, and we proved that on the legal side, and we’ve just got to continue to push forward as an individual and as a person.”