Deshaun Watson wants to be “hands-on” in the Cleveland community — a poor choice of words, perhaps, given the 22 ongoing civil lawsuits against him for sexual misconduct.
At his formal introductory press conference this afternoon, flanked by Browns GM Andrew Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski, Watson insisted again and again to the gathered press that he had never assaulted any woman in his life, saying, “It’s not in my DNA.”
Yesterday, a second grand jury declined to indict Watson on the last criminal charge still on the table, and today the new Browns QB said that he does not plan to settle any of the 22 civil suits. He wants to fight to clear his name. And when asked whether he was saying that nearly two dozen women were lying, why he used 40 different massage therapists, and what work he was willing to do to rebuild his image, he repeated over and over again that he “couldn’t get too far into it because of the investigation,” but that he had “never assaulted anyone in [his] life.”
He’s ready to move on, but he may only be joined in that sentiment by Stefanski, Berry and Browns owners, the Haslams. The GM said that the Browns began looking into Watson five months ago, launching what he referred to as a comprehensive investigation into the former Texans QB, but denying that they had made a decision on Baker Mayfield’s future with the franchise at that time.
Berry said that the organization spoke to people who had known Watson throughout different phases of his life and used “independent investigative resources within the Harris County and Houston law enforcement to get an unbiased, well-rounded perspective on the allegations.”
So “well-rounded,” in fact, that, according to the attorney for the massage therapists, not a single one of the 22 plaintiffs were ever contacted. Their lawyer, Tony Buzbee, said that no NFL teams reached out to him in their so-called “comprehensive evaluation process” of Watson.
We don’t have to keep repeating that the Browns were willing to overlook just about anything to acquire a top-level quarterback, as it’s just blatantly clear at this point. Coach Stefanski can say that he has “empathy for anyone who’s a victim of sexual abuse” all he wants, but that sentiment is really dampened by Berry sitting five feet away, refusing to answer the question of whether their independent investigators reached out to the women who have alleged assault. (Answer: they didn’t.)
Prompted by ESPN’s Jake Trotter, who asked for clarification on whether or not the Browns had spoken to any of the 22 women involved in the lawsuits, Berry replied, “I’m not going to go into necessarily the details of everything the investigators did, but they got a full perspective of all the criminal and civil cases.” He also said the team’s attorneys advised against reaching out to the plaintiffs.
Trotter wasn’t satisfied.
“So if they didn’t speak to any of the women, what is the basis for you calling your investigation extensive, as you put it Sunday, and also given the fact that some of the women haven’t given sworn testimony yet? They don’t have anything on the record.”
Here was Berry’s response to that:
“So again, Jake, I’ll refer back to my statement. The independent and unbiased investigators were able to be comprehensive in all the information they were able to bring forth. Some of the information, quite honestly, I understand can’t necessarily be public, but we do feel good about the work that we did. We feel good about the work investigators did for us. We got a comprehensive perspective of all the cases.”
Well, not the 22 women’s perspectives, clearly.
Berry kept repeating the line that the Browns were comfortable and confident in “Deshaun as a person.” They didn’t have to do too much examination into Deshaun as a Football Player, but after what Stefanski called “a tremendous amount of background,” which, again, allegedly did not include speaking to any of the women who have accused him of sexual assault, but did include speaking to his former teammates and coaches from Houston and Clemson, they decided that Watson’s off-the-field record could be overlooked in favor of his on-field records.
Let’s be real here. The Browns were never going to come to a conclusion that Watson “as a person” wasn’t the right fit for their organization. His talent spoke for itself there, and everything else can be swept under the rug. Berry, though mindfully sensitive due to the nature of the allegations, clearly wants to move on from this, though he did say that the Browns would cooperate with any NFL investigation.
As for Watson? He wants to “get back to the person that people knew I was before these allegations.”
Manchester United vs Crystal Palace LIVE! Premier League match stream, latest team news, lineups, TV today
Manchester United look to make it 13 wins in a row at Old Trafford across all competitions as they host Crystal Palace in the Premier League this afternoon. Erik ten Hag’s side continue to impress on all fronts and, having booked their place in the Carabao Cup final in midweek, confidence will be high.
It is United’s first League game for almost two weeks, the first since they were beaten by Arsenal in a thrilling encounter. While that hurt any slim hopes of a title charge, victory here against Palace will give them a six-point cushion in the top-four race which appears more of a priority. Marcel Sabitzer and Jadon Sancho are both on the bench for the hosts.
Patrick Vieira’s side held United to a draw last month at Selhurst Park, and also picked up a point against Newcastle when they were last in action a fortnight ago. New signings Naouirou Ahamada and Albert Sambi Lokonga are among the substitutes. Follow Man United vs Crystal Palace with our LIVE blog below!
Looking inside the home dressing room…
New boys on the bench
Sabitzer named on the bench for Man United, as Fred partners Casemiro in midfield. Weghorst leads the line again, with Martial missing out on the squad completely.
As for Palace, Ahamada and Lokonga both on the bench, as is Eze. Olise, Edouard and Ayew start for the visitors, with Richards alongside Guehi at the back with Andersen missing out again.
Crystal Palace team news
Starting XI: Guaita, Clyne, Richards, Guehi, Mitchell, Doucoure, Hughes, Ayew, Olise, Schlupp, Edouard
Subs: Milivojevic, Tomkins, Lokonga, Eze, Mateta, Johnstone, Ahamada, Whitworth, Riedewald.
Man United team news
Starting XI: De Gea, Wan-Bissaka, Varane, Martinez, Shaw, Casemiro, Fred, Fernandes, Antony, Weghorst, Rashford.
Subs: Lindelof, Maguire, Malacia, Sabitzer, Dalot, Heaton, Sancho, Garnacho, Mainoo.
Teams coming up!
All the team news from Old Trafford coming up in the next few minutes.
Sabitzer in line to make his debut, while Sancho could be involved for the hosts. Also a couple of potential debuts for Palace, including Lokonga in midfield.
We’ll soon find out…
Vieira gives Zaha update
Palace will be without Wilfried Zaha this afternoon, after he picked up a hamstring injury against Newcastle.
“He is still on the treatment table,” Vieira said in his pre-match press conference.
“His injury will take a couple of weeks. We will have to do without him. Wilfried is somebody who recovers quite quickly. We don’t want to put a date on his injury.”
Ten Hag: Eriksen hard to replace
Erik ten Hag has admitted Man United will struggle to replace Christan Eriksen.
The midfielder is set to be out until late April or early May after suffering an injury in the FA Cup against Reading, a blow that led to United moving for Marcel Sabitzer
“I think you can never fill that because every player has their own characteristics and identity, so another player will always fill it in in a different way,” Ten Hag said. “So, it doesn’t mean that you have to be less successful but it’s quite clear that Christian Eriksen, for our squad, brings top quality and he has some specifics that are hard to replace. For instance, his impact in the final third, [his] final ball.”
It’s only a couple of weeks since these two sides last met.
Michael Olise delivered with a stunning free-kick to equalise in stoppage-time and earn a point for his team… not that you’d have known from his ‘celebration’!
Sancho makes Man United return
Jadon Sancho made his first appearance since October when he came off the bench against Nottingham Forest in midweek.
Erik ten Hag had previously suggested the winger was not physically or mentally ready for first-team action, but the Englishman now appears to be part of his plans again.
On Sancho, Ten Hag told reporters after Wednesday’s game: “I think it was great, the reception from the fans to him, and also that will give him even more a push to continue in the way he’s now acting, he’s just started again, the restart he’s back at Carrington for two weeks, we see that smile and hopefiully he can keep that and contribute to the team.
“He has really high standards, great capabilities to contribute to our team, especially now the team is improving, we’re playing more in the opposition half, his capabilities come in more in front and come in more, he can have more touches on the ball, that is what his game gives the best performances, the best platform to perform.”
Reasons for Palace to be confident
Crystal Palace have lost only one of the last five matches between the two sides.
They earned a point at Old Trafford in 2018, and secured famous victories in Manchester in 2019 and 2020.
A ground they’ve had plenty of success at in recent seasons!
NBA round-up: Five players ejected as Magic beat Timberwolves
Expect the refs to throw a lot of flags during Super Bowl LVII
I don’t watch sporting events for the players or the game. Seeing incredible athletes accomplish phenomenal feats that I wouldn’t dream of doing in a billion years…nope, not for me. Rather, I watch sports because of the officials. To be so close to the action despite having none of the athletic prowess, yet still have a serious impact on the outcome of each game…well that’s a power trip I could really get behind. See, the referees are the true heroes of every sports league’s story. I only wish more attention was given to them each game. I wish they never had to face any accountability for incorrect calls that cost teams, fans, and players their seasons. I’m not the only person who thinks this either.
A few years ago, an entire section of an NHL game between the New York Islanders and Vancouver Canucks was filled with fans mimicking the most impactful people on the ice — the referees. They went absolutely berserk for every call. This is the type of respect I believe all officials deserve.
In case the sarcasm throughout the last two paragraphs didn’t jump off the page at you, I haven’t been too pleased with NFL officiating recently. It feels as though every year, more officials make an effort to stir up drama and ruin a team’s or specific player’s day. Maybe I’m looking too deep into it though. Also, before I get into why I’m not looking forward to the officiating in Super Bowl LVII, I want to make it clear, this isn’t an invitation to disrespect officials at any sporting event. While I do believe there needs to be some sort of accountability at higher levels for atrocious judgments, that’s no reason to make a referee’s life hell. Okay? Glad we can agree on that. Now, without further ado, I can’t stand the guy who’s going to head the officiating crew for the Super Bowl.
Carl Cheffers has called a lot of penalties
Carl Cheffers has been an NFL official since 2000. In that time, he has established himself as one of the league’s most avid flag tossers. Since 2010, Cheffers has only once been below the league average in penalty yards enforced per game (2016). In 2021, games officiated by Cheffers saw penalty yards increase by over 27 compared to the league average. That was the highest mark in the NFL. But he didn’t back down in 2022. Cheffers repeated as the most penalizing ref, although that number did drop from 27 yards over average to just 18. Over the last two years, Cheffers and his crew have called about two more penalties per game than average.
While these incessant flags haven’t affected the outcome of games — Cheffers only saw home teams win at a .02 percent rate above league average this year — the flags still make the game much less enjoyable for fans. There are absolutely zero people on the planet who love seeing the pace of a game come to a standstill. Whether it’s basketball players fouling their opponents constantly and then pausing for free throws, numerous icing and offsides calls in hockey, or back-to-back-to-back holding penalties in the NFL, slowing the game to a halt sucks, but I guess it should be expected for this upcoming Super Bowl.
It also appears that the officiating has leaned drastically in favor of one specific team. In his last six games officiated — and nine of his last 10 — Cheffers has called at least twice as many penalties on one team than the other. It all started on Nov. 6, 2022, during a game between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks won that game by a final of 31-21. They were penalized six times for 34 yards. The Cardinals were penalized 12 times for 77 yards.
The next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the New Orleans Saints 20-10. The Steelers suffered only three penalties. The Saints? Ten. Now, this isn’t to say that the team that faces more penalties is dead in the water. Of those nine instances where one team trudged through twice as many flags, three of those teams wound up winning the game: The New England Patriots in Week 12, the Buffalo Bills in Week 16, and the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15. In all fairness though, the Bills and Chiefs played the Bears and Texans respectively in those games. It doesn’t matter how many penalties each team racked up in those games, you’d expect them to beat the organizations with the first two picks in the upcoming draft.
Cheffers and the Chiefs
I want to talk about the Chiefs a little bit more though. This season, Cheffers refereed two of Kansas City’s games. The Chiefs were called for 11 and 10 penalties in those games, respectively. This entire season, the Chiefs have suffered 94 penalties. 21 of them came from Cheffers across just two games. The penalty yardage is even worse. On the season, the Chiefs lost 923 yards to these penalties. 201 of those yards came from Cheffers. That’s 21.78 percent of their total penalty yardage coming in just two games. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ opponents in those games suffered only nine penalties for 105 yards. Chiefs’ opponents lost 845 yards this year, meaning only 12.43 percent of all Chiefs’ adversary penalty yards came in those games. It’s still higher than where it should be proportionately (2/17 = 11.76 percent), but it’s much closer than where the Chiefs fall. Oh, and remember that Super Bowl between the Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers that saw Patrick Mahomes get blown out 31-9? Well, the Chiefs had 11 penalties called against them in that game. The Bucs? Only four. Take a wild guess whether or not Cheffers was on the officiating crew for that game.
Cheffers and the Eagles
Cheffers did referee one Philadelphia Eagles game this year — their Divisional Round matchup with the New York Giants — but the Birds only suffered four penalties in that game. The Giants suffered eight.
If you’re a Chiefs fan, this isn’t good news. If you’re an Eagles fan, this is great news. If you’re an NFL fan with no allegiance to either team, this means we’re probably in for a boring championship game. By calling so many penalties, games that Cheffers officiates tend to be very low-scoring.
Cheffers has officiated 12 playoff games since 2010. The under has hit in 11 of those games with the only exception coming in Tom Brady’s miraculous 28-3 comeback during Super Bowl LI. It hasn’t been particularly close either. In those 12 playoff games officiated by Cheffers, the under has hit by an average of almost 13 points.
It’s not all bad news for Kansas City though. The Eagles are currently favored by 1.5 points, and it seems Cheffers has historically been very kind to underdogs. Since 2019, they’re 42-24-2 against the spread in games officiated by Cheffers. All I’m saying is that if you have an opportunity to parlay the under with the over on penalty yards against the Chiefs…maybe consider it. I know I will.
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