Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson last met with reporters in August, just after news broke that he agreed to accept an 11-game suspension from the league, along with paying a $5 million fine. He fielded questions about the situation, and among other things he proclaimed his innocence.
Watson is now back. He began his first press conference by explaining that “with my legal team and my clinical team, there’s only football questions that I can address at this time.”
It’s odd for him to adopt that posture now, given that he previously had taken questions. However, given the reaction to his August press conference, it’s better to say nothing than to say something that could possibly make things worse.
He has said in the past that, eventually, he’ll present his side of the story. He was asked on Thursday about the possibility of doing so.
“At this time, I can’t address any of that stuff,” Watson said. “Who knows what the future holds? Right now, I’m locked in on being the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.”
If he didn’t refuse to answer non-football questions, he likely would have been asked whether, after going through league-mandated treatment and counseling, he now realizes the problems inherent to the behavior for which he was suspended. By drawing a bright line, he never has to go there.
Some may not like the approach, but he’s entitled to decline to answer questions. The league requires only that the player be available to the media once during the week and after each game. It does not require that the player actually provide responsive answers to the questions asked.
Of course, the approach could result in criticism of Watson, for not facing the music. For not showing real accountability. For not changing the narrative that, when he last spoke, included an insistence that he did nothing wrong.
It also could prompt others who may be thinking about filing a civil complaint to proceed. And it could make those who settled cases against Watson (and/or their lawyer) to sound off about Watson’s refusal to field questions.