Every week throughout the season, we’ll be bringing you the latest NFL news and rumors here in the PFN Insider Notebook. This week, we provide the latest updates on the new lawsuit surrounding Deshaun Watson and whether or not it will affect his playing status, the leadership of Steve Wilks, and Bailey Zappe expecting to start this weekend for the New England Patriots against the Cleveland Browns.
NFL News and Rumors Notebook: Deshaun Watson Facing a New Lawsuit
Cleveland Browns suspended star quarterback Deshaun Watson is facing a new civil lawsuit in Houston, Texas. However, the lawsuit is not expected to impact Watson’s playing status, and he is complying with all requirements of his suspension, including mandatory treatment, according to league sources.
“Watson’s status remains unchanged,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email. “We will monitor developments in the newly-filed litigation; and any conduct that warrants further investigation or possible additional sanctions would be addressed within the Personal Conduct Policy.”
A Jane Doe, represented by Houston attorney Anissah Nguyen, is the 26th massage therapist to accuse Watson of inappropriate sexual misconduct during a massage session. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback has previously settled all but one outstanding lawsuit filed against him and accepted an 11-game suspension and a $5 million fine in a settlement of NFL discipline levied against him. Two Texas grand juries declined to charge Watson with any crimes, and he has denied wrongdoing.
Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a text message that he anticipates going to court to argue this case and compel the court to disclose the identity of the plaintiff.
Watson allegedly solicited a massage via Instagram at the Houstonian Hotel in Houston in December 2020 with the lawsuit alleging that the NFL player “continually pressured [the plaintiff] into massaging his private area” before he “removed his towel” and “offered to let her ‘get on top.'”
Per the lawsuit, the woman “refused to have sex with Watson, however, he was able to pressure her into oral sex.” She was allegedly paid $300, over her normal rate of $115 for an hour-long massage.
The Texans previously reached confidential settlements with 30 women, and plaintiffs’ attorney Tony Buzbee characterized the NFL team as “enabling” Watson’s behavior.
Watson returned to the Browns’ facility for training this week. He is scheduled to begin practicing Nov. 14 and is eligible to play his first game of the season against his old team, the Texans, on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium.
“I’ll continue to stand on my innocence, just because, you know, settlements and things like that happen doesn’t mean that a person is guilty for anything,” Watson said after the settlement agreement was reached in August. “I feel like a person has an opportunity to stand on his innocence and prove that, and we proved that from a legal side, and just going to continue to push forward as an individual and as a person.”
‘Leader of Men’ Steve Wilks Has Legit Shot To Become Permanent Coach
Carolina Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks has a legitimate shot at earning the position of permanent coach. Panthers owner David Tepper was being sincere when he said that Wilks has a great chance to become a serious candidate for the job depending on how he and the team perform in the wake of firing coach Matt Rhule, according to league sources.
Tepper characterized Wilks as “a leader of men.” Wilks has a lot of credibility and buy-in from the locker room and throughout the Panthers’ building.
A former Arizona Cardinals head coach who was dismissed after going 3-13 in one season in 2018 while saddled with a substandard roster, Charlotte native and longtime Panthers assistant, Wilks was elevated to interim coach this week. There wasn’t a lot of consideration given to other candidates within the building. Wilks was their guy.
“The respect I have for him is unbelievable,” Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey said of Wilks.
Although the odds are long, with just 10 of 40 interim hires since 2000 named permanent head coach and the last one Doug Marrone with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2016, Wilks has his share of fans in Carolina.
“It’s always about overcoming odds,’’ Wilks said. “I feel like I was groomed well from a foundation with my family.’’
P.J. Walker, Rhule’s starter at Temple and a former XFL standout with the Houston Roughnecks will start at quarterback Sunday with a struggling Baker Mayfield sidelined with a high ankle sprain. Walker is mobile and tough.
Source: Patriots expected to start Bailey Zappe
New England Patriots rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe is expected to start his second consecutive game, according to a league source. Regular starter Mac Jones is still dealing with a high ankle sprain.
While Jones is “making good improvement,” per coach Bill Belichick, Zappe is healthy and coming off a strong performance in his first NFL start. The Texas native completed 17 of 21 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown in a 29-0 victory over the Detroit Lions.
Zappe displayed poise, accuracy, and confidence. Those qualities should keep him on the field for at least another week.