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Houston Texans vs. Deshaun Watson: Did NFL Manipulate Cleveland Browns Schedule?

Deshaun Watson could have spent Week 1 in Houston, but the NFL reportedly had other ideas

The NFL swears it did not consider a Deshaun Watson possible suspension when juggling its way through the 2022 schedule of his new team, the Cleveland Browns.

But a league executive is admitting that the NFL purposely avoided pitting the Houston Texans against their former quarterback in Week 1.

NFL vice president Mike North told “Schein on Sports” that the scheduling department did not take into account a potential Watson suspension when assembling the schedule. (This amid accusations that the league gave Cleveland a "soft'' early slate in case Watson's legal and behavioral issues kept him out of uniform.)

North said no to that one. But he did concede another point, as he did admit to having avoided setting up Watson to face the Texans team that traded him after a year of turmoil in Week 1.

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“We knew that Houston and Cleveland were obviously gonna play each other this year. And Cleveland at Houston is gonna mean something,” North said, via Pro Football Talk. “I’ll be honest with you, we did see a schedule, somewhere along the hundreds of thousands that we looked at this year, where that game was in Week 1.

"And I’m just not sure that would have been the right place for it, right? That’s maybe not the right, you know, game that we want all eyes on, attention on, you know, taking attention away from some of these other big tentpoles … in Week 1.''

In one sense, what North is saying is that amid all the "tentpole games'' - which, it can be argued, could include Cleveland vs. Houston - the league prefers to downplay the controversy involving the situation.

So instead, Watson’s Cleveland Browns are scheduled to visit the Texans in Week 13, when, maybe, the 26-year-old quarterback and the numerous allegations of improper sexual behavior will be less of a "tentpole.''

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