Deshaun Watson's situation is the puzzling and perplexing elephant in the NFL's 2021 room.
The 26-year-old quarterback is not injured. He is on a roster -- the Houston Texans', specifically. He shows up at the team facility every day, healthy enough to practice and play, but he does little of the former and none of the latter. He works out with Texans staff members but is not part of anything related to the weekly game plan. When the team practices, he's often in the weight room or conducting a workout plan of his own. He has been involved in some meetings but isn't a steady presence.
Watson exists in NFL limbo for two reasons:
He has told the Texans in no uncertain terms that he intends never to play for them again and would like to be traded.
He faces 22 civil lawsuits by women accusing him of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior. And while he has denied wrongdoing, resolution of those lawsuits appears to be far off. Ten women have filed complaints with the Houston Police Department. Depositions began last month for the 22 plaintiffs, but he cannot be deposed before Feb. 22, 2022.
To be clear: Neither the NFL nor the Texans have suspended Watson, nor has he been placed on the commissioner's exempt list, which is a tool the league has used in the past to essentially suspend players while they're investigated under the personal conduct policy. The league is investigating Watson, but so far it has not acted on any discipline. He could, theoretically, play if he and the Texans wanted him to.
Despite interest from other teams, Watson has not been traded. He gives no interviews. His coach, David Culley, and general manager, Nick Caserio, give the same answers about his status being "week-to-week." The NFL offers no comment.
This is an unprecedented situation with no ultimate resolution in sight, and the significance of the allegations Watson is facing should not be ignored. For the sake of his alleged victims, we want to stress that we aren't glossing over the serious off-field issues at play here. This is a football story encased in a far more serious real-life story.
But league-wide chatter persists about which new uniform Watson will eventually wear. And with the league's Nov. 2 trade deadline creeping closer, the Texans' season looking as if it's headed nowhere and people inside the league still talking about a potential trade, it's worth a reset on this situation -- a look into what we do and don't know, what we do and don't expect to happen, why and when.