As expected, Watson, flanked by general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski, fielded questions about the 22 civil lawsuits against him alleging sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Watson said that he intends to clear his name while denying the allegations.
"I understand these allegations are serious," said Watson, who earlier this month was cleared by a grand jury of criminal charges related to the allegations against him and on Thursday was again not indicted by a second grand jury. "I never assaulted any woman. I never disrespected any woman in my life. I wasn't raised that way. It's not in my DNA."
A "five-month odyssey" was the term Berry used when describing the background work that was done researching Watson's cases that included the use of private investigators and third-party legal advisors. Berry said that the Browns were advised by their lawyers against reaching out to the 22 women involved in the lawsuits because it could have interfered with an investigation.
"We do have faith in him as a person," Berry said of Watson. "If we didn't get comfortable with Deshaun the person, it wouldn't have mattered how talented he was. We wouldn't have pursued the trade."
"I think Deshaun is ready to make a position impact on this community," Stefanski said. "I'm looking forward to this community getting to know Deshaun."
Berry said that he spoke with women on staff before trading for Watson, who said that he wants people to be able to come to him while having an open dialogue.
"We as an organization know that this transaction has been very difficult for a lot of people, particularly women in our community," Berry said. "That in addition to the nature of all the allegations weighed heavily on all of us."
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"The NFL has a disturbing history of enabling and excusing the abuse of women, and unfortunately this is just the latest example,'' said prominent victims' rights attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel. "The Browns' leadership is telling survivors that the possibility of winning more football games is more important than the 22 women who have bravely come forward with serious allegations of abuse against Watson."
As it relates to Watson possibly facing a league-issued suspension, Berry said that the team has and will continue to have open communication with the NFL. Berry added that Watson's salary -- which includes a $1 million base salary for the 2022 season -- is not to protect the team from a possible suspension but to give them flexibility moving forward.
As far as football is concerned, Watson said he chose the Browns not because of the money (which includes $230 million guaranteed over five years) but because Cleveland presented him with the best opportunity "from a football standpoint." While they staggered through a disappointing 8-9 campaign last season, the Browns are just two years removed from nearly upsetting the then-defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Cleveland has one of the NFL's best running games, led by former rushing champion Nick Chubb, and one of the league's top defensive players in Myles Garrett. The Browns further bolstered their offense this offseason by trading for former Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper. Cleveland has reportedly granted quarterback Baker Mayfield -- who two years ago led the Browns to their first playoff win in 26 years -- to seek a trade.
"I knew this was the perfect situation for me to have a fresh start," Watson said, "win some Super Bowls and build this community."