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Sam Ponder, the host of ESPN’s NFL Countdown, was brought to tears while discussing the return of embattled Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Before anyone asks, no, they were not happy tears.
“We are in uncharted territory,” Ponder said before saying that the Watson situation was different than those surrounding other star quarterbacks. She called Watson’s alleged actions a “sinister, planned, and habitual strategy to isolate and sexually abuse relatively powerless women.”
“When I first heard the early accusations, I’ll admit, I didn’t believe it,” she said saying she had known Watson since his freshman year at Clemson. Ponder began to break up as she recalled coming to know him as a friend through interviewing and meeting his family.
“I’ve only personally experienced him to be kind, humble, and loving,” she said. “And if I kept a list of players least likely to do something terrible, he would’ve been at the top.”
However, Ponder conceded that her personal feelings were irrelevant and that she has no clue what Watson does in his private life.
“I don’t know how he treats women when no one else is around, and none of us do.”
Ponder Slams Browns For Making Watson Seem To Be A Victim
“There’s a choice to be made; one that the Cleveland Browns already made with their money,” Ponder said. “Is he a conniving predator or a sympathetic victim? A wolf in sheep’s clothing or prey to manipulative liars to who only see dollar signs.”
Ponder was of course referencing Watson’s mammoth deal with the Browns worth $230 million fully guaranteed over 5 years.
Ponder didn’t make any new points about the Watson situation that haven’t been made already many, many times.
However, it is interesting that she took a vastly different approach than one of her colleagues, Adam Schefter.
Schefter put out a highly-criticized piece the morning of Watson’s return in which he cited anonymous sources who praised Watson’s progress in his rehab program over his 11-game suspension.
Lots of people, including OutKick founder Clay Travis, called out Schefter and other so-called “insiders.” The argument being that they’ve effectively become mouthpieces to protect league interests.
Watson made his return on Sunday afternoon in Houston of all places. Watson didn’t exactly impress, going 12/22 for 133 with no touchdowns and an interception.
Follow on Twitter: @Matt_Reigle