Talk about awkward.
That’s about the best way to describe the dance that has taken place between the Houston Texans and Deshaun Watson as training camp kicked off this week. Neither side wants to be together at this point, but a virtual no-decision by the NFL on Sunday is forcing the two bitter parties to stick together until an equitable separation can be facilitated.
Sound like a marriage gone bad?
That’s exactly what is playing out this week at the Texans’ practice facility where the NFL-mandated threat of a $50,000 per day fine for skipping training camp has forced Watson to show up and play the professional role.
The Texans are looking like the jilted mate holding the purse strings who won’t spare any indignity while this process plays out. On the opening day of training camp, Watson, who is an elite NFL quarterback and is by far better than the other quarterbacks in camp, was an afterthought in the offense. He took snaps behind Tyrod Taylor, rookie Davis Mills and journeyman Jeff Driskel.
Watson, who is slated to make $160 million over four years beginning next season, even lined up at running back in an offensive drill and was later seen in practice standing in as a disinterested safety on the scout team.
The team is claiming that Watson needs more time to get acclimated to the new system, which is why his practice reps are so few. Watson did skip all of the voluntary workouts earlier this summer and new head coach David Culley elected to skip mandatory minicamp, which Watson would have been subject to fines for missing.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had a quarterback not go through the offseason, so the point is, not going through the offseason, especially with the nature of the way the league is right now with the limited reps and the limited things that we can do during the offseason, is that we want to make sure during this ramp-up period that nothing happens, you know,” Culley said to The Defender when asked if he has ever seen a No.1 quarterback be handled the way Watson was on the first day. “I mean, guys throw too much, guys’ arms get sore and we want to make sure none of those things happen.”
It’s an insult to everyone’s intelligence to say that even with Watson missing all of the voluntary workouts that if he was still in the Texans’ plans that the franchise quarterback would not be in the unquestioned No.1 spot.
The reality is that Watson no longer wants to play for the Texans. And the Texans are resigned to moving on from their unhappy quarterback as soon as a suitable trade partner can be found.
What’s complicating the trade waters is that Watson currently is in a heap of legal issues with 22 female massage therapists having filed civil lawsuits against him for several levels of sexual misconduct. Then, there is the revelation this week that 10 women have filed criminal complaints against Watson, eight of which are part of the 22 filing civil lawsuits.
Watson’s legal matters have certainly complicated what teams are willing to give up for a quarterback who could be hung up in the courts for the next couple of years and almost certainly will face some sort of NFL suspension.
In the meantime, the Texans and Watson are stuck together after the NFL elected Sunday not to put Watson on leave with pay while his legal issues get worked out.
Watson has not talked with reporters this week but he did show defiance by initially taking the practice field without putting on his red No.4 practice jersey, opting for hoodie which he kept draped over his head.
The team, meanwhile, continues to do this awkward “it’s business as usual” dance, even thoughtit quite obviously is not.
“It’s not about one person or one individual,” said first-year Texans general manager Nick Caserio, who would not even confirm for reporters whether or not Watson would take the field minutes before the team was set to hit the field for the first day of training camp Wednesday. “I think our focus is on our team and always doing what’s in the best interests of our team, and that’s how we are going to handle it. I would say there’s always a lot that goes into these things and every team is dealing with different things, I would say, when you look around the league. So, we are no different.”