Sean Pendergast

Where Will Deshaun Watson Be Come Week 1 of the 2021 NFL Season?

Rusty Hardin's handling of Deshaun Watson's legal situation will factor into his availability in 2021.
Rusty Hardin's handling of Deshaun Watson's legal situation will factor into his availability in 2021. Screen grab from YouTube
Another Houston Texans practice brings another interesting twist in the ongoing saga between Deshaun Watson and his current employer (for now, at least). After nearly a whole week of padded practices and a scrimmage on Saturday where Watson was completely absent from those sessions, Watson showed up on the practice field on Monday, in pads, doing some light drills, before heading into the Methodist practice bubble by himself after about 45 minutes.

For what it's worth, Watson was far more sociable in this practice than he had been in previous sessions he'd attended. Whereas he spent the first handful of practices physically detached from teammates (often perching himself a good 20 yards away from the nearest teammate), on Monday, Watson was seen chatting it up with GM Nick Caserio, head coach David Culley, and several teammates throughout the practice.

Hell, there may have even been a smile or two! This, naturally, led to speculation about a reconciliation between Watson and the Texans, despite the quarterback's sparse participation in actual drills. Here was a tweet from Charles Robinson of Yahoo!:
Wow! That's kind of exciting, right? Sure! Of course, in swooped John McClain of the Houston Chronicle to douse cold water on the notion of the two sides kissing and making up:
Well, those would seem to be two somewhat conflicting reports now, right? So what exactly are the scenarios for Deshaun Watson, as we are a little under five weeks away from the start of the regular season? Where will he be in Week 1?

Below, I have a handful of scenarios, in order of likelihood, an order based purely on my own opinion. These predictions are under the assumption there is no settlement of the 22 civil lawsuits brought against Watson before the start of the NFL regular season:

1. Roger Goodell does SOMETHING with Watson before Week 1
Up to this point, despite wide ranging power to do pretty much whatever the hell he pleases when it comes to discipline, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has done nothing with Deshaun Watson. Many believed that, at the very least, Watson would have been placed on the Commissioner's Exempt List (sort of a "paid purgatory" while a player is being investigated) by now, but obviously Goodell's investigation hasn't yielded enough to do so. I'm going to guess that five more weeks of digging will yield enough to at least place Watson on that list, if not get some sort of suspension handed down.

2. Watson goes on injured reserve with some (likely fabricated) injury
If the league hasn't enacted any movement against Watson, then he will likely still be an employee of the Texans. If the first two weeks of training camp are any indicator, the team has no designs on playing him in anything involving full contact. Under a scenario where he doesn't see the field, coming up with some sort of injury and placing him on injured reserve makes the most sense for both sides, as Watson wouldn't be occupying a roster spot on the 53-man roster, if he were "hurt."

3. Watson is on the Texans' 53-man roster, but is inactive on game days
If they don't feel like fabricating an injury, then the Texans would just keep Watson on the roster, and likely make him a healthy scratch on game days, which would feel like one of the weirdest weekly rituals in NFL history.

4. Traded
There is still chance that, even without resolution of his legal situation, Watson could be traded. However, the asking price from Nick Caserio and the offers he is currently getting are reportedly way far apart right now. It's important Caserio get maximum value for Watson, if he does indeed trade him, as the haul of draft picks can help accelerate the team's rebuild.

5. Watson is on the Texans' 53-man roster, and suits up on game days
I see this as very unlikely, just based on the behavior of both sides to this point in camp, but logically, if Watson is being paid a salary by the Texans, and is not suspended nor injured, shouldn't he actually play football?

WILD CARD. Watson is arrested and charged by HPD
I don't even know where to rank this scenario because we have zero access to anything the police have unearthed in their investigations into Watson. We know that ten women have filed complaints, including eight of Tony Buzbee's clients who are all suing Watson in civil court, as well. Movement from HPD could come tomorrow or it could come months from now, so since we don't have a timeline, I'll just leave it off to the side as potentially explosive "wild card" scenario. If Watson were to go to jail, it would all but torpedo any chance he plays football again, for the Texans or anybody else.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast