WHO'S TELLING THE TRUTH?

Here’s how dark a worst-case scenario for Watson, Texans could really get

A drawn-out legal battle could last months. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

The number of women filing civil lawsuits claiming that Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson sexually assaulted them now stands at 14. And counting. The lawsuits are available for the public to read on the Harris County district clerk's website. The details are graphic and paint Watson as an entitled, aggressive sexual predator. Twelve of the incidents allegedly occurred in 2020. Two allegedly happened this year, one as recently as this month. Tony Buzbee, lawyer for the women, say more women have come forward about unwelcomed sexual encounters with Watson and more lawsuits may be filed.

Watson insists that the allegations are false and he has always treated women with the "utmost respect." If these lawsuits ever reach court, it will be left for a jury to decide who's telling the truth: Deshaun Watson or 14 or more women.

He says, they say.

It would appear that Watson's lawyer Rusty Hardin has one job now: make this all go away and fast. Deshaun Watson's reputation, image and desire to be traded away from the Houston Texans are taking a daily beating, from which there may be no rescue unless Buzbee's tortuous, steady drip, drip, drip of lawsuits stops.

While a courtroom battle between Hardin and Buzbee would make great theater, with salacious testimony involving sex and celebrity, the rich and powerful against the poor and defenseless, it's in the best interests of both sides to resolve these lawsuits privately, out of the public's glare.

Here is one possible scenario: Watson and his accusers reach a financial settlement and sign non-disclosure agreements. Watson does not admit guilt. After teams lower their trade offers, he will play one more year with the Texans during which he is jeered mercilessly at road games. The Texans will trade him after next season.

That's a possible best case scenario for Watson.

Buzbee insists the lawsuits are not about money. "I personally don't need it, and the women don't want it," he said during a press conference. The lawsuits all seek minimal compensatory damages. That could change if Hardin calls and says let's make a deal.

Of course, Watson is presumed innocent of all these allegations. Civil lawsuits are not arrest warrants or guilty verdicts. Anybody can sue anybody for any reason. However, Watson needs to end this now, before the Houston Police Department and Harris Country district attorney decide to conduct an investigation and possibly file criminal charges. While a criminal case could proceed despite an out-of-court settlement and without the cooperation of the accusers, it is less likely.

"The sooner Rusty makes the civil cases go away, the less likely the criminal investigation would ever reach critical mass," said lawyer Brian Wice, Channel 2's legal analyst and winner of the 2016 "Percy Foreman Attorney of the Year" award.

While Hardin and Buzbee are two of the most famous and successful lawyers in the U.S., and both would love to notch a win against the other in court, neither wants this case to get that far for a simple reason …the loser has too much too lose.

If a jury sides with Watson, then Buzbee and the accusers have a lot to explain. Was this a frame job against a young, accomplished athlete? Who came up with this plot? There will be questions of whether the Houston Texans were involved in the takedown of Watson. It is stunning to listen to sports talk radio in Houston and hear fans accuse the Texans, specifically team owner Cal ("or Hal," according to Buzbee) McNair and his spiritual advisor Jack Easterby of colluding with Buzbee and the accusers. It is not a theory shared in the national media.

If a jury were to decide against Watson, that would destroy a glittering NFL career and possibly expose him to a criminal charges where a guilty verdict could compel him to register as a lifetime sex offender.

A drawn-out legal battle could last months, well past Texans training camp and the start of the 2021 NFL season. The NFL is not the NBA. An NBA team plays 82 games, so each game is less important than football's 16-game schedule. An NBA player can miss occasional games because he has to be in a courtroom. An NFL player, especially a star quarterback, can't miss games for non-injury reasons and weekday practices are critical to prepare for Sunday.

The NFL is conducting a separate investigation to determine if Watson violated the league's personal conduct code. While there are no guarantees, and again Watson is presumed innocent of all these allegations, a fast out-of-court settlement may help him avoid suspension or other punishment.

According to NFL insiders, several teams still are interested in trading for Watson. However, "interested" and willing to trade equal value are two different things. Any team trading for Watson while he is under investigation for sexual assault can expect howls of protest from social justice groups, ticket holders and fans. If teams can get Watson for pennies on the dollar, though, they might be willing to absorb bad publicity in exchange for winning.

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Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans started fast but faltered late as the New York Jets hand Houston their ninth loss of the season 21-14. Here are 11 observations from the game.

1. Starting safety Justin Reid was benched for the game. David Culley said after the game it was his decision as head coach and he would keep the matter internal with Reid.

2. This is the third defender benched for disciplinary reasons this season. Reid joins Zach Cunningham and Desmond King as players who missed time for discipline.

3. Justin Reid told Fox 26 he was benched because he had a disagreement with the coaching staff. He also said he was shocked the Texans benched him. You have to wonder if the “culture” the team is building is right when one of the more likable and personable players falls victim to their rules. Reid, who is a free agent this offseason, could leave the Texans.

4. Tyrod Taylor had a couple of nice plays early on for the Texans. His willingness to take some shots downfield was refreshing and led to a touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks.

5. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan found the end zone. He has played well in recent weeks after finally getting on the field. Jordan is playing over Jordan Akins as Akins was a healthy scratch again this week.

6. Tytus Howard started at left tackle with mixed results. Howard has struggled to find his way at guard but could be a long-term option at tackle if given the chance.

7. The offensive line overall played poorly after some early success. The pass rush of the Jets got going and the run blocking was poor again. Lane Taylor played at left guard some, with Max Scharping also playing some at that spot.

8. The offense was horrendous after the two scoring drives. The Texans amassed 202 net yards with 91 yards coming on those two scoring drives. Houston gained just 49 net yards after their opening three drives.

9. After the game, I asked David Culley if he would be making a change with his play-caller. Culley stood behind offensive coordinator Tim Kelly and said he would remain the team’s play-caller.

10. Second-year defensive lineman Ross Blacklock had two horrible errors that handed the Jets a chance to turn three points into seven points. Blacklock got a personal foul on a field goal attempt giving the Jets a first down. The very next play his offsides penalty erased a sack. Each week Blacklock falls even more behind a bevy of players drafted after him who contribute positively on a regular basis.

11. The loss to another bottom-dweller has the Texans back in the second spot in the 2022 NFL Draft order. It also feels like the deflating nature of this loss erased some of the good feelings after the victory over the Titans. The Indianapolis Colts come to Houston next week to begin December’s portion of the schedule.

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