Deshaun Watson’s spent the last two weeks during Browns’ practice playing the role of a starting quarterback in the NFL. Only, it was usually playing the role of someone like Buffalo’s Josh Allen or Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady.
“He threw a fade on me it was like − I can’t really explain it,” rookie cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. said during a Zoom call Monday. “It was like an overhead, back-shoulder fade that only the receiver could catch. It was like out of bounds and a receiver had throw both his arms over his shoulder to catch the ball. And I had no chance to make that play. … That was a great throw.”
This week, Watson can begin to play the role of a starting quarterback again for his own team. The NFL officially reinstated the Browns quarterback from his 11-game personal conduct policy suspension Monday, and he was added to the team’s active roster.
To make room for Watson on the active roster, the Browns waived quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Jacoby Brissett, who went 4-7 as the Browns’ starter in Watson’s place, and Kellen Mond join him in the Browns’ quarterback room.
Monday’s move puts Watson on track to start this Sunday for the Browns when they travel to play the Houston Texans. That means going back to the face the team that selected him 12th overall in the 2017 draft before trading him to the Browns on March 18, along with a 2024 sixth-round pick, in exchange for three first-round picks, a third-round pick and a fourth-round pick.
However, Watson did not play his final season in Houston due to a combination of a trade demand and the allegations of sexual assault and sexual misconduct during massage appointments in late 2020 and early 2021. It was those allegations by 26 women through the judicial system in Texas − 25 resulted in lawsuits, 23 of which have been settled − which led to the suspension from the NFL.
That means, when Watson takes the field in Houston, it’ll have been 700 days between regular-season starts for him, which has raised the concern about rust. He last started a regular-season game on Jan. 3, 2021, for the Texans against the Tennessee Titans.
Watson looked rusty and, even, a bit rattled by some noticeable boos during his lone preseason start on Aug. 12 at Jacksonville. He played three series, completing 1-of-5 passes for 7 yards.
“I certainly get it but can’t really control that for me and for Deshaun and for all of our players,” coach Kevin Stefanski said of the rust factor. “Just gotta keep the focus on doing our job. Think about it, there’s some guys that don’t play in preseason football and then they get in there Week 1, need to get tackled first time before they feel like they’re ready to go. So I think some of those things may be true, but I don’t wanna put anything on Deshaun. I think it’s unfair for me to say at this point, we don’t know.”
Watson isn’t returning to active status completely cold. He was a full participant in the Browns’ offseason program and preseason before starting his suspension at 4 p.m. Aug. 30.