Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with head coach Kevin Stefanski during an offseason workout.

Browns QB Deshaun Watson progresses to ‘full speed’ throws

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson shed the pitch count and progressed to throwing full speed passes in the latest tier of his rehab from season-ending shoulder surgery.

“Everything is full motion,” Watson said Tuesday after reporting for Cleveland’s offseason program. “Everything is fluid and motion is really good. The velocity and the strength is really good.”

Watson had surgery in November following a season-ending injury to his right shoulder during Cleveland’s 33-31 victory in Baltimore on Nov. 12. He landed on injured reserve as the Browns signed former first-round pick Joe Flacco from the couch to lead the team’s charge to the playoffs and a wild-card berth.

Acquired from the Houston Texans and signed to a fully guaranteed, five-year, $230 million contract in 2022, Watson has played 12 total games in his first two seasons with the Browns.

He has three years left on that contract and is determined to prove he’s the best man for the job in Cleveland. But Watson won’t be pushing to make any offseason statements at the risk of re-injury, a position head coach Kevin Stefanski said the franchise would take to preserve their QB1 this spring.

“This is an injury that, for spring, you want to be a little bit more conservative. This summer you get ready for training camp. That’s going to be a time where we can pick that up,” Watson said.

Watson, 28, completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,115 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in six games in 2023.

A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Watson has thrown for 16,756 yards with 118 touchdowns and 45 interceptions in 66 career games with the Houston Texans (2017-20) and Browns.

–Field Level Media

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson talks with head coach Kevin Stefanski after minicamp on Wednesday, June 15, 2022 in Canton.

Browns Hof 4

QB Deshaun Watson remains Cleveland’s centerpiece

Quarterback Deshaun Watson wraps up rehab on his surgically repaired shoulder before springtime and is on schedule to join the team at full strength for organized team activities.

“I’m confident he’ll be ready to roll this spring. He’s champing at the bit, but he’s doing everything he’s supposed to do when it comes to what the doctors are telling him and as he rehabs through this, but he’ll be ready to roll,” head coach Kevin Stefanski said.

Watson missed the late-season surge and wild-card playoff loss to the Houston Texans with the offense piloted by Joe Flacco. Flacco is unsigned for next season but Stefanski supports bringing the veteran back to the roster as Watson’s backup.

“I’d leave all those things up to obviously (GM) Andrew (Berry) in this offseason,” Stefanski said. “I will say this about Joe: Joe was awesome for this football team. He did a great job. Battled like crazy. I know he enjoyed it. We obviously wish (the playoff) outcome was different, but I have a ton of respect for Joe and what he was able to do.”

Flacco turns 39 on Tuesday and had five 300-yard games, including at Houston on Saturday, after signing as a free agent to join the practice squad on Nov. 20.

Watson had ankle and two separate shoulder injuries that kept him out of the lineup most of the 2023 season. He had surgery on his throwing shoulder in December. Watson served an 11-game suspension in his first season with the Browns.

But Stefanski said there’s not a doubt the organization still views him as a franchise quarterback. Cleveland’s first-round pick is again owed to the team that eliminated the Browns from the playoffs as part of the massive payment for the trade for Watson. Watson also signed a $230 million fully guaranteed contract.

“We feel really confident in the roster Andrew’s put together. And Deshaun’s a huge part of that,” Stefanski said.

“I mean 4-1 as a starter, some really great moments, that second half versus Baltimore is something that I don’t know how many people on Earth can do what he did with the injuries that he had in that second half. So very excited for him. He’s excited. I know he wants to get back healthy and he is well on his way to doing that.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2023; Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA;  Green Bay Packers tight end Luke Musgrave (88) warms up before game against the Los Angeles Chargers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Packers WR Christian Watson, TE Luke Musgrave could play Sunday

Purported No. 1 receiver Christian Watson and starting tight end Luke Musgrave have a “realistic” chance to play Sunday for the Green Bay Packers in the regular-season finale with the Chicago Bears.

The Packers are in the playoffs with a win against Chicago.

Watson missed the last four games with a hamstring injury but returned to practice this week.

Musgrave, recovering from a lacerated kidney, is being considered for the active roster on gameday for the first time since he was injured in Week 11.

“I’d say it’s realistic, yes,” Packers head coach LaFleur said.

Watson has five touchdowns catches but has been dogged by injuries since being drafted in 2022. When healthy, he’s served as the big-play threat in Green Bay’s offense and averages 15.1 yards on his 28 receptions this season.

Musgrave, the 42nd pick in the 2023 draft, is the co-star of the rookie class with wide receiver Jayden Reed and is tied for third on the team with 33 receptions despite missed time.

Green Bay is also hopeful Reed can go this week after he left last week’s win over the Vikings with a chest injury. Reed had six catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns prior to leaving the game.

The team’s leader with 60 catches, Reed has eight TD catches, tied with Romeo Doubs for tops on the Packers.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2023; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is helped up by  running back Jerome Ford (34) after being tackled out of bounds during the second half against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Browns’ playoff odds plummet without Deshaun Watson

The Cleveland Browns’ status as a legitimate threat in the AFC proved to be fleeting in the eyes of oddsmakers, who returned the long-beleaguered franchise to longshot status after losing quarterback Deshaun Watson to a season-ending shoulder injury.

The Browns were on the outside-looking-in in the deep AFC playoff picture just a week ago. Despite owning a winning record, Cleveland was viewed as a second-tier team in the conference, owning +1700 odds to win the conference at BetRivers and +2200 at DraftKings.

Then came Sunday’s come-from-behind stunning upset of division-rival Baltimore that pulled the Browns to 6-3 and within a half-game of the Ravens in the AFC North. If the regular season ended today, Cleveland would be in the playoffs as the second wild-card team.

Following the dramatic victory, the Browns’ odds to win the AFC championship dropped to +1200 at BetRivers and +1300 at DraftKings. Meanwhile, their odds to win the jam-packed AFC South division title shifted to +220 and +230, respectively.

Feint Super Bowl aspirations were also rekindled, with Cleveland suddenly +2500 at BetRivers and +3000 at DraftKings.

Then came Wednesday morning’s bombshell that Watson will miss the remainder of the season.

Backup P.J. Walker won two of the three games he started in Watson’s absence earlier this season. However, coach Kevin Stefanski said the Browns will turn to fifth-round rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who threw three interceptions in starting a 28-3 loss against Baltimore on Oct. 1.

Oddsmakers clearly don’t have faith that the rookie can help the Browns keep pace in the deep AFC.

Cleveland’s odds to win the AFC moved to +2500 at BetRivers and +2000 at DraftKings, with the team’s Super Bowl odds lengthening to +500 and +4500, respectively. BetMGM also moved the Browns’ title odds from +2200 to +5000.

Just reaching the playoffs will be a significant challenge, as the Browns are now +500 and +450 to win their division at BetRivers and DraftKings, respectively. Cleveland is tied for second in the AFC North, but ahead of only Cincinnati (5-4).

The Browns are even at 6-3 with Pittsburgh, and play host to the Steelers on Sunday before traveling to face the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams.

Following the Watson news, BetMGM and DraftKings both moved the Browns from -4.0-point favorites against the Steelers to -1.5.

BROWNS FUTURES (BetRivers)
ON 11/7:
Super Bowl: +3500 (11th)
AFC: +1700 (7th)
AFC North: +550 (3rd)

ON 11/14:
Super Bowl: +2800 (10th)
AFC: +1200 (6th)
AFC North: +220 (2nd)

TODAY:
Super Bowl: +5000 (t-13th)
AFC: +2500 (9th)
AFC North: +500 (t-4th)

Browns general manager Andrew Berry said doctors indicated Watson should not have been able to play with the injury.

“For Deshaun to play, call it 2 1/2 quarters, at a really high level against one of the best defenses in the league with this injury plus the high ankle (injury), it really is an incredible display of physical and mental toughness,” Berry said.

The Browns said doctors were concerned about further structural damage.

“Despite performing at a high level and finishing the game, after consultation with Browns’ Head Physician, James Voos, MD, and industry-leading shoulder specialist, Neal ElAttrache, MD, it has been determined that this injury will require immediate surgical repair to avoid further structural damage,” the Browns said in a statement Wednesday. “Deshaun will be placed on season-ending injured reserve and a full recovery is expected for the start of the 2024 season.”

Berry said the Browns, who traded current Minnesota Vikings starter Josh Dobbs before the start of the season, are in the market for a third quarterback and would add one this week.

Per NFL Network, Watson visited multiple doctors and wanted to play through the injury. He was advised, however, that the shoulder could “fall apart” if he were to be hit in the same spot.

Watson, 28, completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,115 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in six games this season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back to pass the ball in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Browns QB Deshaun Watson to start vs. Cardinals

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will start Sunday’s game against the visiting Arizona Cardinals, coach Kevin Stefanski announced Friday.

Watson took all the first-team reps in practice Friday as he continued to recover from a strained rotator cuff. He was listed as a limited participant in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday.

“He’s comfortable,” Stefanski said. “He looks good.”

Watson initially was injured on Sept. 24 and was replaced in the Oct. 12 game against the Indianapolis Colts by P.J. Walker, who has started three games and gone 2-1. That includes last week’s loss at Seattle, when an interception on third-and-short late in the game gave the Seahawks possession to drive for a game-winning score and dropped the Browns to 4-3.

Watson, 28, has thrown for 683 yards and four touchdowns against three interceptions in four games this season.

Walker, 28, has completed just 49.5 percent of his passes for 618 yards with one TD and five picks in three games.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) looks to throw downfield during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson: Must be ‘on same page’ with Browns to face Cardinals

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson looks better and feels better, progressing to the extent that his return from a shoulder injury could be imminent.

Watson was throwing lasers in Thursday’s practice, an apparent ramp-up in activity he said was merely “part of the protocol … part of the process” and not necessarily a signal he’s ready to go Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.

“We all gotta be on the same page. I told the guys that I was ready Indianapolis week. That was my decision,” he said. “And look, I wasn’t ready. I tried to jump the gun a little bit and it didn’t go our way.”

Watson was replaced in the Oct. 12 game against the Colts by P.J. Walker, who has started three games and gone 2-1. That includes last week’s loss at Seattle, when an interception on third-and-short late in the game gave the Seahawks possession to drive for a game-winning score and dropped the Browns to 4-3.

Watson was first injured Sept. 24 and has a strained rotator cuff.

Resting Watson on Sunday, when the Browns’ defense is likely to line up against Cardinals rookie Clayton Tune in his first career start, would set Cleveland up to bring him back healthier for AFC North games that follow — at Baltimore on Nov. 12 and against the Steelers the week after.

“As you can imagine, I always just kind of keep it day-to-day,” coach Kevin Stefanski said of Watson’s progress in practice. “He’ll be out there, and we’ll see how he does.”

Walker has one touchdown, five interceptions and a 49.5 completion percentage. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the starter in a 28-3 loss to the Ravens on Oct. 1 in Cleveland, was intercepted three times and sacked four times in that game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back to pass the ball in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Browns QB Deshaun Watson to return to practice

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was expected to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, coach Kevin Stefanski announced.

Watson, who did not participate in practice at all last week, is recovering from a rotator cuff strain in his right shoulder.

“I’m not making any game-day decisions today,” Stefanski said. He later added that PJ Walker will start for the Browns (4-3) in Sunday’s game against the visiting Arizona Cardinals (1-7) if Watson is not cleared to return.

Watson attempted to return against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 22 before exiting in the first half due to injury. He then sat out this past Sunday’s game, a 24-20 setback to the Seattle Seahawks.

Watson, 28, has thrown for 683 yards and four touchdowns against three interceptions in four games this season.

Walker, 28, has completed just 49.5 percent of his passes for 618 yards with one TD and five picks in three games.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back to pass the ball in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Deshaun Watson defends injury status, says he wants to play

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson insists injury, and not will, is preventing him from taking the field for Cleveland.

Watson said wanting to play isn’t even a question during an interview with the media Thursday in response to criticism suggesting his desire to play isn’t the same as it was before he signed a five-year guaranteed contract with the Browns.

“This is what I’ve been doing since I was 6 years old. So why wouldn’t I want to play?” Watson said. “I see the same things. I see all the narratives, this, that and the third. All this stuff is just trying to cause controversy and commotion. I’m fine. I’m happy. Not happy with the injury, but I’m in a great space mentally, I’m in a great space spiritually.

“Why wouldn’t I want to play? I don’t do this for no other reason. I see that. The whole contract situation and this stuff, that’s just for people to talk and create narratives.”

Originally injured five weeks ago, Watson attempted to return last week and quickly realized he wasn’t himself.

“I thought I was ready. I wasn’t ready,” Watson said.

Watson has been ruled out of this Sunday’s game at Seattle and said he’s working to get his shoulder back to full strength. He’s dealing with a strained right rotator cuff.

He said medical evaluation will decide when he gets back on the field.

“We just don’t know. Until the medical staff tells the coaching staff and myself feels very comfortable I can go out there and be the quarterback people saw in Tennessee, we’ve just got to take it day-by-day,” Watson said. “There’s no certain timeline on certain injuries. It might be shorter, it might be longer.”

In his stead, P.J. Walker is in line to start against the Seahawks. Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Watson “didn’t look like himself” but was clearly limited despite a strong practice two days before the game.

The Browns (4-2) are trying to sort through injuries at other positions before visiting the Seahawks (4-2). Running back Jerome Ford (ankle) is unlikely to be ready for the game, pushing Kareem Hunt into the starting role.

“You got to go out there and just play, and that’s what it kind of was,” said Hunt, who re-signed with the Browns on Sept. 20 following a season-ending knee injury to starter Nick Chubb. “It’s hard to really say when or when it’s done, but I think each week I’m going to keep getting better and feeling great.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback PJ Walker (10) hands the ball off  in the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

PJ Walker signed to Browns’ roster, will start Week 8

The Cleveland Browns officially signed quarterback PJ Walker to the active roster on Wednesday after exhausting his three gameday elevations from the practice squad and promptly named him the starter for this week’s game.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski announced Wednesday that Deshaun Watson (shoulder) will rest and rehab this week. Stefanski reversed course 48 hours after saying Watson would start this week.

The move relegates rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson to third string. It also comes amid Watson’s chronic shoulder issues. Watson did not practice Wednesday and was considered day-to-day ahead of this week’s game against the host Seattle Seahawks.

Watson started last week’s game against Indianapolis but didn’t last long. He was pulled with 3:13 left in the first quarter after a hit from Colts defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo. Watson cleared concussion testing and an MRI on Monday showed no further damage to the shoulder.

Stefanski said Monday that he was protecting Watson by not putting him back in against the Colts.

“He’s our starter moving forward,” Stefanski said. “He’s our starter in Seattle. I just — it’s always going to be my decision to protect our players.”

Walker replaced Watson and was 15-of-32 passing for 178 yards and one interception against the Colts.

Watson, 28, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 683 yards, four touchdowns and three picks in four starts this season.

The Browns could have cut Walker and hoped he cleared waivers to re-sign him back to the practice squad for a fresh new slate of three elevations.

The Browns also announced the signings of running backs Jordan Wilkins and Nate McCrary to the practice squad.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) drops back to pass the ball in the first quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Coach stands by QB Deshaun Watson as Browns’ leader

Cleveland coach Kevin Stefanski asserted Monday that quarterback Deshaun Watson remains “the leader” of the Browns.

Watson did not return to Sunday’s 39-38 win over the Indianapolis Colts despite being cleared after a concussion check in the first quarter.

Stefanski insisted after the game that he was protecting Watson, who had missed the two previous games with a shoulder injury.

Stefanski repeated that sentiment on Monday.

“I’m always going to be protective of my players, especially at the quarterback position,” Stefanski said. “Just felt like the right thing in that moment was to hold him out of that game.”

Watson completed just 1 of 5 passes for 5 yards with an interception before leaving. He was replaced by P.J. Walker, who guided the Browns (4-2) to a victory for the second straight week.

Stefanski declared after the game that Watson would be back for Sunday’s road game against the Seattle Seahawks (4-2).

“He’s our starter moving forward,” Stefanski said. “He’s our starter in Seattle. I just — it’s always going to be my decision to protect our players.”

Watson said after the game that he accepted Stefanski’s decision to keep him on the bench.

“I want to compete. I’m a competitor,” Watson said. “I want to go out there and try to help the team as much as possible, and go out there and play and perform and compete. But the decision was best for the team and they felt that was the best, and P.J. did a great job of finishing the game.”

Walker was 15-of-32 passing for 178 yards and one interception against the Colts.

Watson, 28, has completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 683 yards, four touchdowns and three picks in four starts this season.

–Field Level Media