Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson called an audible and reported for Texans training camp Sunday, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly.
By doing so, Watson avoids $50,000 daily fines if he hadn't reported, which would have involved him potentially being placed on the reserve-did not report list.
Watson, the NFL's passing yardage leader last season and one of the most dynamic players in the game, has not changed his stance that he ultimately wants to be traded, sources emphasized. Several sources expressed the opinion that Watson is firm and "intentional" in his desire to not play for the Texans again.
NFL teams remain interested in trading for Watson, a former first-round draft pick from Clemson, including the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins. No trade is believed to be imminent and Watson has a no-trade clause in his four-year, $156 million contract signed last year, an important factor in any prospective conversation with other teams about moving him, according to sources.
This creates a potentially awkward situation for the Texans since the NFL hasn't ruled on the matter and Watson still wants out. The Texans have signed quarterback Tyrod Taylor to be their new QB1 and also drafted Stanford quarterback Davis Mills. The Texans could possibly excuse Watson from practicing and not fine him.
Watson requested the trade after last season due to displeasure with the organization, including a lack of input-communication during the hiring of general manager Nick Caserio and coach David Culley. Watson is facing 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct and he and his attorney, Rusty Hardin, have denied the allegations. The Houston Police Department is conducting an ongoing investigation and has not been charged with a crime.
The NFL hasn't changed Watson's status as far as any movement toward placing him on the commissioner-exempt list, which is the equivalent of paid leave. Under NFL rules, commissioner Roger Goodell generally places players on the exempt list when he strongly believes based on evidence the player might have committed a crime of violence or a sex crime when a player hasn't been charged.
So, this unprecedented situation continues to unfold.
Although the Texans finished 4-12 last season, Watson completed 70.2 percent of his throws for a league-high 4,823 yards with 33 touchdown passes and seven interceptions while rushing for 444 yards and three touchdowns.
The holding pattern continues, though, off the field as the civil and criminal investigations continue to unfold and his request for a franchise and career-altering trade remains unresolved.
Aaron Wilson has covered the NFL for 20 seasons, including the Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has previously written for The Houston Chronicle and The Baltimore Sun. He’s on Twitter: @AaronWilson_NFL and Instagram: @aaronwilson7128.