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Two women who filed lawsuits vs. Houston Texans’ Deshaun Watson alleging sexual misconduct speak out

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HOUSTON — Two of the 22 women who filed lawsuits against Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson alleging sexual assault and inappropriate behavior came forward publicly during a news conference Tuesday.

Ashley Solis, who lawyer Tony Buzbee said was the first massage therapist to file a lawsuit against Watson, spoke in the news conference. Lauren Baxley wrote a letter to Watson that was read by lawyer Cornelia Brandfield-Harvey.

“I got into massage therapy to heal people,” Solis said. “To heal their minds and bodies. To bring peace to their souls. Deshaun Watson has robbed me of that. He took that away from me, he tainted a profession in which I take enormous pride. … I suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. I’m in counseling as a result of Deshaun Watson’s actions. I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on me emotionally and physically. And I hope he knows how much pain he’s inflicted on these other survivors.”

“People say that I’m doing this just for money,” Solis said. “That is false. I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman.”

In her letter addressing Watson, Baxley wrote, “Every boundary from professional and therapeutic to sexual and degrading you crossed or attempted to cross.”

Baxley said she wrote the letter at the recommendation of her trauma therapist to “forgive myself for not speaking up sooner,” and also “so that you can know without excuse or justification that you have deeply and irreversibly brought terror to me and others.”

“I initially came forward to offer solidarity to other women, but I have since realized that I’m deserving of justice as well,” Baxley wrote. “I hope the court of law brings that justice, and that you’re stripped of both your power and ability to hurt more women.”

Buzbee said in the news conference that Solis and at least one other of his clients have provided statements to the police.

On Friday, the Houston Police Department said in a statement that it has launched an investigation of Watson after a complainant filed a report.

“As with any allegation, the Houston Police Department is now conducting an investigation and will not comment further during the investigative process,” the department said in a statement. It did not specify what Watson is being accused of in the complaint.

Watson’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement later on Friday that he and Watson will “fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”

“We welcome this long overdue development,” Hardin said. “Now we will learn the identity of at least one accuser. We will fully cooperate with the Houston Police Department.”

In a letter Monday to Texans season-ticket holders that is regularly sent in the spring, the McNair family addressed the civil lawsuits and a complaint filed with the Houston Police Department against Watson, saying, “We want to assure you that we take these allegations very seriously.

“While we await the conclusion of these investigations, we express our strong stance against any form of sexual assault,” the letter reads. “Our family and the entire Houston Texans organization are deeply troubled by any form of abuse and we condemn this type of behavior.”

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Cleveland Browns RB Nick Chubb says he wants to stay with team when NFL rookie contract ends

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BEREA, Ohio — Heading into the final season of his rookie contract, Browns Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb said Tuesday that his desire is to remain in Cleveland long-term.

“It would mean a lot,” said Chubb, who said that his agent and the team have already discussed a potential extension this offseason. “Cleveland drafted me and trusted me and put their faith in me to help build this culture and this team I’m a part of. Cleveland is where I want to be. Hopefully everything can work out in that direction.”

Chubb, a second-round pick in 2018, has been the backbone of the Browns’ offense the past two seasons, averaging 5.25 yards per carry during that span.

In 2019, he came within 47 yards of besting Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry for the rushing title. Last season, Chubb missed four games because of a knee injury but still finished seventh in the league with 1,070 yards on the ground, as Cleveland made the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Chubb has been especially efficient late in games. Last season, he led the NFL with an average of more than 10 yards per carry in the fourth quarter.

Chubb said that his supporting cast — which includes one of the top offensive lines in the league — as well as coach Kevin Stefanski’s run-heavy offense are among the reasons he prefers to stay in Cleveland.

“I don’t like uncertainty,” Chubb said. “I know here in Cleveland what I have, the players and coaches and the city of Cleveland. Cleveland is where I want to be. That’s my main focus.”

Last summer, the Browns extended Chubb’s backfield sidekick Kareem Hunt to a two-year extension worth $13.25 million, keeping Hunt under contract in Cleveland through the 2022 season.

The Browns, who are holding their mandatory minicamp this week, have two other key players they drafted in 2018 who are extension-eligible this summer in quarterback Baker Mayfield and cornerback Denzel Ward. Cleveland has already picked up the fifth-year options on Mayfield and Ward, which will keep them under contract at least through the 2022 season.

Ward, a Pro Bowl performer in 2018, said Tuesday that his agent and the Browns have begun talking about an extension as well.

“In a perfect world,” Ward said, “I’d definitely want to be a Brown for the rest of my career.”

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Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams to sit out mandatory minicamp, sources say

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Seattle Seahawks safety Jamal Adams officially will not participate in the team’s mandatory minicamp this week, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Adams, who is scheduled to play on the fifth-year option in his rookie contract worth $9.86 million this season, is seeking a new contract.

The Seahawks were bracing for Adams’ potential absence and the team was aware of a potential family/personal issue that could be a factor, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Adams, 25, was not in the building Monday as Seattle players got their physicals.

The Seahawks acquired Adams from the New York Jets before last season, sending a package that included two first-round draft picks to New York, which had selected the safety No. 6 overall in the 2017 draft.

At the time of the trade, Adams’ goal was to become the NFL’s highest-paid safety, sources had told ESPN. The Denver BroncosJustin Simmons is currently the NFL’s highest-paid safety with a contract that averages $15.25 million per season.

After dealing for Adams, Seattle said it planned to wait until this offseason to attempt to sign him to an extension.

Adams’ 9.5 sacks in 12 regular-season games last season was the most by a defensive back since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, and his 30 pressures was 14 more than any other DB, per ESPN Stats & Information research. Adams missed four games earlier in the 2020 season with a groin injury. He led the Seahawks with 14 tackles for loss and did not have an interception, keeping his career total at two over four seasons.

ESPN’s Brady Henderson contributed to this report.

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Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard not at mandatory minicamp over ‘unique’ contract renegotiation

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DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard didn’t show up for mandatory minicamp meetings Tuesday morning and he’s officially a holdout as he seeks a new contract.

Coach Brian Flores broached the issue at length Tuesday morning, noting he didn’t think Howard would be there for minicamp while mentioning “unique” and “renegotiation after one” several times in regard to his contract.

“It’s pretty clear this is a contract situation, which we’ve talked about internally,” Flores said. “X is a little bit of a unique situation. He was extended and now we’re talking about a potential renegotiation after one year. Those turn into longer conversations. We understand that. We’ve obviously had a lot of talks and conversations about that and we’ll continue to have those and keep them internal, but it’s a very unique conversation.”

Howard, who hasn’t shown up to any portion of the Dolphins’ voluntary offseason program this year, can be fined up to $93,085 for skipping mandatory minicamp — $15,515 for the first missed day, $31,030 for the second missed day and $46,540 for the third missed day.

When healthy, Howard is one of the NFL’s best lockdown cornerbacks. He led the NFL in interceptions last year with 10 — the most by a player since Antonio Cromartie in 2007. He finished third in the AP Defensive Player of the Year voting and had a strong argument for winning the award over Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Pittsburgh Steelers‘ edge rusher T.J. Watt.

Howard feels like he’s outplayed the five-year, $75.25 million extension he signed in May 2019, which is set to pay him $12.075 million in 2021 and $49.325 million over the next four seasons. New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who signed a five-year, $65 million free-agent deal in 2017 and is set to make $7 million this year, is also holding out of mandatory minicamp.

The market has changed since both of those deals. Howard saw the Dolphins sign cornerback Byron Jones to a five-year, $82.5 million deal in March 2020, and then Howard outplayed Jones this past season, which has a role in his desire for a new deal. Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey is now the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback after signing a five-year, $100 million extension.

“We love X. We love him. He’s very productive. He’s a team player. He’s an important player on this team. Unique situation,” Flores said. “We want to keep him here. Specific to Byron, markets are set every year and that’s part of the conversation. That’s what makes this unique.”

Multiple teams have approached the Dolphins about a Howard trade over the past year, but up to this point Miami hasn’t shown a serious inclination to deal its star cornerback, sources told ESPN. As Flores has said publicly, the Dolphins want to keep him. The contract situation just makes the relationship a little stickier.

A key point of contention between the two parties is the length of the deal and renegotiating so soon after Howard’s May 2019 extension. At that time, the deal made Howard the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback at $15.05 million per year. He has played two years on that deal — but only one on the new portion of the extension given in 2019 was the final year of his rookie deal. He has four years left on his current contract, though only his 2021 salary is left fully guaranteed. His 2022 salary is partially guaranteed for injury.

“After one year, it’s honestly something that hasn’t been done before,” Flores said. “Not saying we’re drawing a line in the sand, but different players set the market every year.”

New contract adjustments have happened after one year in the past, but that typically is following a short-term extension and not shortly after a longer one like Howard’s five-year extension. Maybe there’s a happy medium where Howard receives a modest raise with incentives or more guaranteed money, but the overall structure of the deal doesn’t change. Though as of now, there hasn’t been that common ground reached.

One element that hurts Howard’s pursuit is that he has missed 24 games in his career because of knee injuries, and health tends to be a bigger question mark as players get older. Howard, 27, is still in his prime, but it becomes a harder argument to get a raise and a restructured deal with the injury question and recent extension.

The Dolphins appear to be a much better team with Howard leading their defense, as Miami jumped from the NFL’s 32nd-ranked scoring defense in 2019 (when Howard missed most of the season due to injury) to fifth at 21.1 points per game in 2020, when Howard had his career year (playing all 16 games).

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