Canadian tight end Antony Auclair had a unique view of the Deshaun Watson situation in Houston.
Watson demanded a trade from the Texans after general manager Nick Caserio was hired last off-season. Following Caserio’s hiring in January 2021, Watson was served with 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints stemming from sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations.
Houston had Watson on the 53-man roster but he remained inactive all season while earning $10 million in 2021 without suiting up and playing one single down for the Texans. Veteran Tyrod Taylor and rookie Davis Mills were the starting quarterbacks Houston used as the team went 4-13, the second-worst record in the league.
“At the beginning of the year when Tyrod got hurt, we would have used him for sure. It’s frustrating but at the same time it’s not something that you can control or the team can control,” Auclair said.
“For sure it was a distraction at the beginning of the season, but then we were trying not to think about it too much. He wasn’t really part of the team and so it’s frustrating for sure at some point because he’s a good player.”
Auclair played 16 games for the Texans during his first year with the franchise. He made five receptions for 47 yards and one touchdown — the first TD or his career — while bringing his physical blocking abilities to the offence. The pending NFL free agent has long been a favourite of Caserio who signed him to his most lucrative contract so far worth over $1.3 million.
“The discipline side of the team in Houston was a thing we missed early in the season. As we went along during the season the team was more disciplined and that’s why we were winning more games in the end,” Auclair said.
The 28-year-old spent the first four years of his NFL days with the Buccaneers and earned a ring alongside Tom Brady when Tampa Bay beat Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. Auclair was with the Bucs as the team was building into a contender and can see similar potential in the Texans.
“I compared this year with my first year with Tampa where we were trying to rebuild the team. If we do the same thing in Houston, I think we can be good in the next years,” Auclair said.
“My first couple years in Tampa we only had five wins each year, so it’s kind of the same thing. We have a lot of new players and new playbooks to learn. It’s really a long process and I’m glad I was part of it because it’s hard and takes a long time.”
The six-foot-six, 256-pound Notre-Dame-des-Pins, Que. native signed with the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent, recording ten receptions for 84 yards in 40 games. Auclair raved about playing with Brady, calling him the “greatest teammate of all-time.”
“Players like Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, I’ve seen their everyday routine and how they respond to adversity,” Auclair said.
The Texans will need that kind of resolve to move past the Watson distraction and be successful in the future.