Managing and Principal Partners Dee and Jimmy Haslam & Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager Andrew Berry (8.18.22)


Jimmy Haslam: “A few brief comments and then we will take questions. I think we have said from the outset that was is really important for the Cleveland Browns to honor the agreement between the [NFL] Players Association and the NFL, and to no matter what the outcome is or was to respect that so we are going to do that. We are not going to comment on anything to [what Judge] Sue (L.) Robinson said or her decision nor are we going to comment on anything (NFL) Commissioner (Roger) Goodell said because we do not think that is appropriate. At the same time, I think we as an organization realize how sensitive this is, how emotional this is to all kinds of different people and how a lot of people have been affected by this situation, and we take that very seriously. Since (QB) Deshaun (Watson) came into our building in April, he has done everything we have asked of him and more. He has been the person and the leader that we expected him to be. I think he understands where he is in his life, it is a pivotal point, and we as an organization are going to do everything we can to help him not only be the best football player he can be but more importantly to be the best person he can be. We are going to support him in every way possible during this suspension and during what will hopefully be a long career with the Cleveland Browns. I also think it is important to remember that we have a lot of other really good football players that are going to practice today at 2 p.m. against the Eagles today and tomorrow and play an exhibition game and in about two-and-a-half weeks kick it off against Carolina. We have a talented team, we have confidence in (QB) Jacoby Brissett and we are looking forward to going forward.”


Dee Haslam: “I just want to say that we as an organization and as individuals, we have tremendous empathy for the women involved. We have an opportunity now to make a difference in this community. We are going to invest $1 million to go towards educating the youth for awareness of sexual misconduct. We are going to work really hard on [intervention], and we are looking forward to getting involved and getting started on that.”


On if the Browns when initially acquiring Watson expected that the suspension could be 11 games:

Jimmy Haslam: I don’t think we had any way of knowing. I don’t think anybody knew how many games Deshaun might miss. We did not know definitively until today. I think it is important to remember that Deshaun is 26 years old and is a high-level NFL quarterback, and we are planning on him being our quarterback for a long time.”


On the Browns’ research on Watson and Watson’s situation the team prior to acquiring Watson and Judge Robinson’s comment about Watson’s behavior seeming ‘egregious’ and ‘predatory’:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think I said from the outset we are not going to comment on anything Judge Robinson said. I don’t see any positives in commenting on that.”


On if the Browns are comfortable with having Watson on the team:

Jimmy: “Absolutely. 100 percent. 100 percent.”


On if the Browns would have still made the trade for Watson if they knew about everything that has occurred since March, given many new elements have occurred since the acquisition and the team’s research on Watson:

Berry: “Yes, we would. We mentioned at the time that our process was thorough. We felt like we made an informed decision. Understand why others might not have made the same decision that we did, but we do believe that Deshaun has strong positive qualities and we do think that he has done everything in his power to integrate himself with our team and done everything we have asked. We do believe that as he goes through the self-improvement and self-growth process that he has the opportunity to make a strong and positive contribution to our team and our organization.”


On if the team maintains it was the right decision to not talk directly with the women who made allegations against Watson during the research process:

Andrew Berry: “Like I mentioned at the time, we were following the advice of our legal counsel, and that is something we would always do.


On if the team could have contacted women who made allegations against Watson but did not file legal suits:

Berry: “As I mentioned, we were thorough, and we did make an informed decision.”


On the comments from Goodell and Judge Robinson about Watson’s behavior, given those have been seen and reacted to by the public:

Berry: “We are aware that the transaction has elicited a number of strong emotions and it has created tension within the overall fanbase. At the same time, I do not think anyone necessarily wants to be – their life and their career – be defined by the mistakes that they have made. Our view with Deshaun is we see someone who has been committed and will continue to be committed to a very long process of personal growth. That is something we believe that we can support him in. We do think he is an individual, based on our experiences with him over the past few months and the work that we did on the front end, who can have a really strong impact on the organization on and off the field over a long period of time.”


On reconciling Watson saying he maintains his innocence with the commitment to improving as a person:

Berry: “Quite honestly, the process and the journey for personal growth is a process. It is not something that is going to be immediate, but it is something that we believe will happen over a long period of time.”


Jimmy Haslam: “Let me say one thing. We met Deshaun for the first time down in Houston in March. It was an interview of sorts, a couple of hours interview. We got a little bit of a feel for him then, and he came into the building in mid-April. We have seen him grow over the last four or five months. I think we have seen him recognize some things that he wished he had done differently and some positions he wished he had not put himself into. He has been very open to counseling and seeking help. We anticipate that growth continuing going forward. I base that on his track record prior to these events, which is exemplary. You go to Gainesville, Georgia, you go to Clemson, South Carolina or you go to Houston prior to this – I am not at all minimizing the ‘this’ – but it is outstanding, and our experience in the building with him has been the same way.”


Dee Haslam: “Let me add a little bit. Counseling takes time. You do not just go to a counseling session, wake up and understand the impact it has. I think it is a layering effect, and it takes weeks, months and a long time to get to where you understand so much more about yourself. I think Deshaun has made progress from the time he came here to now. He is making progress, but it is not going to happen overnight. He is 26 years old, and he is just getting into counseling; it is going to take some time.”


On Watson maintaining his innocence and if they believe Watson is innocent of any wrongdoings: 

Dee Haslam: “I think again, we respect his opinion. I do think in counseling Deshaun will grow to learn a lot more about himself.”


On if Dee Haslam is potentially saying Watson does not currently realize he may have done something wrong and could learn that later:

Dee Haslam: “If you know anything about counseling, it takes a long time to go through that process, and you could talk to the experts. He is doing the work. He is committed to doing the hard work to make himself a better person. I think he said that several times that he is committed to doing that.”


On Watson being suspended for 11 games and if the Browns are comfortable with their current QB status heading into the 2022 season or may add help:

Andrew Berry: “No 1, we brought in Jacoby and we feel very good about Jacoby. We like what we have seen throughout the spring and we have liked what we have seen throughout the summer so we have a high degree of confidence in him. No different than any other position on the roster, we will continue to evaluate our team over the course of the camp, but really pleased with Jacoby.”


On if Watson’s suspension could have potentially been shorter if there was a heavier fine:

Jimmy Haslam: “This was frustrating, but it is what it is – we are a side party; we do not participate in the negotiations.”


On if the Haslams’ future contribution of $1 million toward education and awareness related to sexual assault factored into the disciplinary process in any way:

Jimmy Haslam: “No. That had nothing to do with it.”


Dee Haslam: “No, we were going to invest in Northeast Ohio. We were starting that process before. There is nothing to do with it.”


On the NFL’s announcement of Watson’s discipline also including the financial contributions from the Haslams and the NFL toward supporting prevention of sexual misconduct:

Jimmy Haslam: “We did, but that did not impact the settlement at all. I just want to clarify, the negotiations were between the players union and the NFL. We are a bystander.”


On the basis for saying Watson was remorseful in their statement when Watson maintains his innocence and Judge Robinson said he took little or no remorse in the report:

Jimmy Haslam: “Because we are around him every day, and he said he is remorseful.”


On Watson not publicly apologizing to women and everyone impacted by the situation until before the Jacksonville preseason game:

Dee Haslam: “I think I said it pretty well that counseling is a process, and it is going to take some time for him and the layers and layers on getting there, and we feel like he is making progress. With us, we have seen that.”


Jimmy Haslam: “Let me say one other thing, too. He was also involved in civil litigation during that time period, too. A lot of what held Deshaun back was he was counseled by his attorneys not to say anything.”


On the message to fans who have been upset by the Watson acquisition:

Jimmy Haslam: “We have unbelievable fans. Do you come out here to practice every day? The fan support has been outstanding. Our ticket sales are great. Our corporate support is outstanding. We are not naïve enough to think that there are not some people who disagree with that. It is our hope that over a period of time, we will win them back.”


On the logistics of Watson’s 11-game suspension:

Berry: “Our understanding is that the suspension would take effect at the start of the regular season. It is collectively bargained that guys can kind of get back into the building after the first half [of the suspension] is completed, but all of that is governed by standard rules for any suspension.”


On how the Browns will handle Watson’s massage therapy sessions moving forward:

Berry: “I will be honest, in terms of the soft-tissue work and massages, that is something that we have had a plan in place since the start of the transaction. That is not something that is new now because year-round, athletes need that type of soft-tissue work as they train and prepare for the upcoming season. That is something that has already been implemented in place for the past couple of months.”


On the plans for Watson’s massage therapy sessions and if they will be conducted by a male or a female:

Berry: “I am not going to go into those specific details, but it is something that we feel good about and we think is the right [decision].”


Jimmy Haslam: “It is fair to say it is team approved.”


Berry: “Correct.”


On if the Browns would still make the acquisition for Watson ‘knowing what they know now’:

Jimmy Haslam: “Absolutely.”


On having no ‘qualms about making someone of questionable character the face of the franchise’:

Jimmy Haslam: “I think in this country, and hopefully in the world, people deserve second chances. I really think that. I struggle a little bit… Is he never supposed to play again? Is he never supposed to be a part of society? Does he get no chance to rehabilitate himself? That is what we are going to do. You can say, ‘Well, that is because he is a star quarterback.’ Well, of course, but if he was ‘Joe Smith’, he would not be in the headlines every day. We think people deserve a second chance. We gave (RB) Kareem Hunt a second chance, and that has worked out pretty well. We are hoping this will work out, and we have strong belief it will. That does not mean we do not have empathy for people affected and we will continue to do so, but we strongly believe, strongly believe that people deserve a second chance; we believe Deshaun Watson deserves a second chance.”


On if there are concerns about how visiting fans will react to Watson:

Dee Haslam: “I hope the conversation comes to ‘What can we do going forward to get the information out to help other people?’ I think there is just a huge opportunity to talk about the major issues in our country in this area, such as sex trafficking, massage parlor abuse, etc. There is so much information that we can glean from this, and the opportunity is tremendous. We can continue to talk about Deshaun or we can talk about the major issues our country faces and make a difference.”


On the message to fans who are upset with the organization for acquiring Watson:

Dee Haslam: “My hope is that using this platform to talk about how we are in the business of preventing this happening to other young men and women, how can we move forward as a country in so many areas that we tend to ignore? This is not about Deshaun, and I hope those women will get involved and actively participating in programs that educate people so we can move to a different place.”


On if the 11-game suspension affects expectations for the Browns this season:

Berry: “We still have 17 games to play. We think we have a number of talented players and coaches who are in that locker room. Our expectation is still to have a competitive team and go and try to win every game.”


On if there is concern about how Watson will be treated at road games, in addition to being booed:

Berry: “I think that is all going to be a part of it. Fans are certainly entitled to express themselves as they see fit. That is something that is going to be part of it and that the team is going to have to deal with, but they are going to be focused on playing the game and obviously doing what we can on the field.”


On what makes the team confident Watson can move forward from the situation contribute at a high level on and off the field, in addition to counseling:

Berry: “We do see an individual who as he has been with us has been committed to the process of personal growth, both in terms of like Dee mentioned with counseling, we have seen someone who has been a fantastic teammate, we have seen someone who has leadership abilities with our players and our staff and we see someone who genuinely wants to integrate into our community and have a positive impact. We understand that there has been a lot of tension, conflict and emotion with this transaction, understandably so, but we do also have strong belief that as Deshaun navigates this journey and as we support him organizationally, that he will be able to have an outside impact over time in our community like he did in Houston, Clemson and Gainesville.”


On if Brissett will be the starting QB for the first 11 games or if the team will consider other QB options:

Berry: “We have a lot of confidence in Jacoby. We have seen him play in Indianapolis and Miami. We have seen him here on the practice field. We think he has had a really good camp so we have a lot of confidence.”


On if the Watson situation has added stress or made circumstances more challenging for Head Coach Kevin Stefanski:

Berry: “I think this is a unique trade. I think it has obviously created a lot of noise, it has elicited a lot of strong emotions and it has brought a lot more to Kevin’s plate than you would see necessarily in a typical offseason, but we have a really strong leader at the helm of our team. I think he has handled this well. I think the team is doing well in their preparations for the upcoming season. We are looking forward to two really quality joint practices against a really good opponent with the Philadelphia Eagles.”

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