Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson saw his suspension increased to 11 games, it was announced Thursday.
Watson must also pay a $5 million fine and undergo mandatory counseling in terms of a settlement reached between the NFL and NFL Players Association. An independent judge previously suspended Watson for six games on Aug. 1, but the league office appealed that ruling in the belief that it was too lenient.
Watson was found to have violated the NFL’s personal conduct policy after more than two dozen massage therapists filed lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct. Authorities in Texas, where Watson previously played for the Houston Texans before being traded to Cleveland during the offseason, declined to pursue criminal charges against three-time Pro Bowler.
The 26-year-old Watson has not played in an NFL game since 2020 after sitting out all of last season in what was first a contract dispute and later due to the sexual misconduct allegations (though he was never officially suspended). Houston in March traded Watson for three first-round draft picks to Cleveland, which almost immediately signed him to a fully-guaranteed five-year contract worth $230 million.
Watson will now be eligible to return to the Browns’ lineup Dec. 4 at Houston. Under terms of his previous suspension, he could still participate in training camp and preseason games, and could use the team’s facility.
Thursday’s decision is final and cannot be appealed further by either Watson, the Browns or the league. Watson released the following statement via the Browns on Thursday:
Browns owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam later released their own statement: