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Deshaun Watson reportedly bracing for potential grand jury proceedings over accusations

Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson reported for training camp amid uncertainty surrounding his future with 22 pending civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints alleging sexual abuse. With NFL and criminal investigations ongoing, a crucial point in the legal cycle could be approaching.

Many expected Watson would skip Texans’ training camp, opting to follow through on his intention to hold out after an offseason trade demand. Instead, the 25-year-old quarterback reported last Sunday and put pressure on Houston’s front office to make a decision.

The Texans have made Watson available for trade, but the asking price remains high despite the ongoing legal matters. Many expected the NFL to place Watson on the “Commissioner’s Exempt List”, barring him from all team activities while he receives full pay. But with the investigation ongoing, commissioner Roger Goodell has let things play out.

What should the Houston Texans do with Deshaun Watson?

That might be about to change, based on the latest update from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio.

“A settlement of the 22 pending lawsuits against Watson likely won’t matter, if a settlement happens in the near future. The criminal investigation has progressed to the point where, we’re told, Watson’s camp is bracing for an eventual grand jury proceeding. (No one knows when that will get started.) If/when Watson is indicted, he almost definitely will be placed on paid leave by the league.

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio with latest on Deshaun Watson cases

Latest on Deshaun Watson’s status for 2021

The Houston Police Department announced on April 2 it was launching an investigation after a person came forward with a complaint against Watson. Ultimately, 10 criminal complaints were filed with eight of the alleged victims also part of the civil suits against Watson.

On July 27, the NFL said it is working with HPD during its own investigation. But, according to The Athletic, the league has not spoken with Watson, a majority of his accusers nor relevant third parties. Furthermore, the league has not received any evidence gathered by law enforcement during the criminal investigation.

Steph Stradley, a lawyer and NFL reporter for the Houston Chronicle, detailed how the civil suits and criminal complaints are handled in the legal system and explained what authority the NFL has to discipline players.

One important note, per Stradley, only felonies would go through a grand jury proceeding. If a grand jury determines there are strong enough grounds for a trial, then it would move forward in the criminal system.

If Watson is indicted, the NFL will likely see that has enough grounds to place the Pro Bowl quarterback on paid leave. He can remain on the exempt list indefinitely and league officials would likely wait for the entire legal process to unfold before handing down their own discipline.

Even if Watson isn’t indicted, there are still 22 civil suits awaiting a hearing. He can’t be deposed until 2022, meaning that there is a chance he misses the entire 2021 NFL season without a settlement. While recent reports suggested he could play this fall, he might still face a lengthy suspension even if investigations finish this year.

Considering the uncertainty surrounding his availability and the Texans’ asking price, even NFL teams desperate for a quarterback upgrade will likely wait for more information to emerge.