Browns QB Deshaun Watson to be reinstated by NFL after 11-game suspension, paving way for return

A formal step in Deshaun Watson’s return will become official Monday at 4 p.m. ET when the NFL reinstates the quarterback following his 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, according to league spokesman Brian McCarthy.

The procedural move will clear the way for the quarterback to make his Cleveland Browns regular-season debut Sunday against his former team, the Houston Texans.

Watson, who appeared in the Aug. 12 preseason opener, has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 3, 2021, the 2020 season finale. He was not active for any of Houston's games in 2021, the Texans unable or unwilling to accommodate his desire to be traded as two dozen lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct related to incidents with female massage therapists surfaced.

As part of the settlement negotiated in August by the NFL and NFL Players Association, Watson also paid a $5 million fine and was required to attend follow a treatment plan that included regular counseling. McCarthy said Watson complied with the terms of the punishment.

Watson has been allowed to enter the team facility since Oct. 10 and began practicing again Nov. 14.

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Deshaun Watson has not played in a game that counts since the end of the 2020 regular season.
Deshaun Watson has not played in a game that counts since the end of the 2020 regular season.

A total of 26 lawsuits were filed against Watson for sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. Of the 24 lawsuits that were active until earlier this year, 23 were resolved this year with confidential settlements. One was dropped shortly after being filed in March 2021. Two remain, including the most recent one, which was filed Oct. 13.

Two grand juries opted to not indict Watson and he was never charged with a crime.

In March, the Browns traded Houston five draft picks, including first-round selections in 2022, 2023 and 2024, for Watson, whom they signed to a five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract; the guarantee set a high for an NFL contract.

Watson was originally suspended six games, but the league appealed and voiced its preference to suspend him for the entire year. The NFL and NFLPA then reached the current settlement.

The Browns defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in overtime, 23-17, to improve to 4-7. With Watson on track to be back in the lineup, Jacoby Brissett will return to a backup role.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

Contributing: Brent Schrotenboer 

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Browns QB Deshaun Watson to be reinstated by NFL after suspension