On Sunday, the Texans won 37-21 over the Jaguars in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, earning Houston the lone AFC South victory. David Culley and his teammates were able to win despite the absence of their highest-paid player, something the squad will have to grow used to.
Deshaun Watson is expected to never play another snap for the Texans at NRG Stadium, according to everyone from the highest levels down. The fifth-year player is still seeking a trade, despite 22 civil lawsuits alleging him of sexual misconduct and assault dating back to January. The FBI, Houston Police Department, and the NFL are all conducting investigations. Watson has vehemently denied any misconduct on his part.
The Texans and Watson have adopted a day-by-day approach to Watson’s predicament because none of the above has been resolved. Since the start of training camp, Watson hasn’t missed a day of work. He is still on Houston’s 53-man roster, where he is listed as the team’s third-string quarterback on the depth chart. He hasn’t been exiled, but has been mingling with his teammates at the facility. Nick Caserio, the team’s general manager, recently indicated that he has spoken with Watson and that the quarterback has not been a distraction.
“I’ve had multiple conversations with Deshaun in training camp,” Caserio told reporters. “Like I said, his attitude has been good, he hasn’t been a problem, he hasn’t been a disruption. So, we’re going to take it one day at a time.”
Teammates I spoke with in the lead-up to Houston’s season opener have said the same of how Watson has handled the situation. Almost a dozen players, some emphatically, have stated to me that Watson is not a distraction. The situation isn’t uncomfortable behind closed doors, I’m told. Veteran safety Justin Reid told me last week it’s “become the new normal” within the building. Watson comes in, gets his workouts in, attends meetings and works with starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor (who led the way in Houston’s win over Jacksonville, with 291 yards and two touchdowns through the air, as well as 40 yards on the ground). There is the thought that Watson, one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, sees things in defenses and in film sessions most don’t. He provides an extra set of eyes in meetings.
Last week, Watson wasn’t seen during the portions of practice that were open to the media; the team listed him as a Did Not Participate, with a non-injury designation, each day. On Friday, the Texans ruled Watson out against the Jaguars, listing him with a non-injury designation. This could be the standard operating procedure throughout the season, unless Watson is moved before the Nov. 2 trade deadline, a possibility NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on Sunday morning. The quarterback wasn’t seen during the Texans’ home preseason game and did not travel with the team to its two road preseason games. Watson was not present Sunday at NRG Stadium during Houston’s win over Jacksonville. So, with the 2021 season now officially underway, nothing has changed — and nothing will likely change for at least several weeks.
For now, Watson is a member of the Texans, and he is not their starting quarterback. That job has been Taylor’s since the start of training camp. As it was recently put to me by Reid, “We get the question every day. I don’t think the answer is really ever going to change much.”