Deshaun Watson takes next step toward return to field


Wednesday marked another important checkpoint for Deshaun Watson as he moves closer to his 2022 debut. The Browns quarterback took part in his first practice with the team on Wednesday.

Watson’s suspension imposed limits on his involvement with the team leading up to his reinstatement later this season. The last milestone came in October, when he was first allowed to resume certain activities including meetings and individual workouts. Wednesday marked the first day during which he was eligible to practice in full with the team.

By receiving clearance to take the field, Watson remains on track to meet all necessary criteria from the suspension agreed upon by the NFL and NFLPA in August. That deal included an 11-game ban, $5M fine and mandatory counseling. He is in line to make his Cleveland debut in Week 13 against his previous team, the Texans.

The Browns brought in Jacoby Brissett to serve as the bridge starter between the start of the campaign and Watson’s return. The veteran has put up middling numbers – a 63.8% completion percentage, 8:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio and passer rating of 87.1. That essentially falls in line with expectations entering the season, one in which the Browns were always poised to lean heavily on their ground game.

Doing so has produced the league’s tenth-highest scoring offense, but only a 3-6 record. As a result, Brissett’s final two games as the starter could go a long way in determining the team’s postseason outlook. 

The Browns face a balancing act in managing each QB’s workload during practice. Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, along with James Palmer of NFL Network note that Watson received some first-team reps in an attempt to get him acclimated.

Preparation for the 27-year-old will remain key given his year-long stint on the sidelines with the Texans last year, not to mention the Browns’ five-year, $230M commitment to him which is fully guaranteed despite the sexual misconduct and sexual assault allegations which made him the league’s biggest offseason storyline. As he presumably takes on a larger workload in the coming days and weeks, the Browns will look to remain in contention until he makes his first regular season appearance.

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