Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson was in good spirits as he went through drills during his first regular-season practice on Wednesday in Berea, Ohio.
Watson has been serving an 11-game suspension from the NFL for sexual misconduct allegations from more than two dozen women, and he hasn’t been allowed on a practice field, let alone a game field, since Aug. 30.
Watson agreed to his suspension, paying a $5 million fine and undergoing treatment and counseling after the league ruled he violated its personal conduct policy.
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Watson reached a settlement with 23 of the 24 women who accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior during massage sessions while in Texas. Two grand juries did not indict him on any criminal charges.
He won’t be able to play in a game with his new team until Dec. 4 when the Browns take on his former squad, the Houston Texans.
It was a very cold day in Berea, which Watson made a comment about in the locker room prior to his practice sessions. However, he didn’t speak with the media following his first practice.
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“This is the next step for him, and it’s good to have him back out on the field,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski told the Associated Press. “What’s important is that we do everything we can to find a way to get a win versus Buffalo. That is where the players’ focus is.”
While Watson took first-team reps during training camp when he was out there, quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has started in his place since the suspension began, was under center for those on Wednesday and will be until Watson’s suspension is up.
After Cleveland dished out a five-year, $230 million contract – fully guaranteed – to Watson following the trade, GM Andrew Berry told reporters, “Yes, I would,” when asked if he expects Watson to be playing against the Texans.
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Despite the Browns’ 3-6 record, Brissett has done well in his time starting this season. He’s thrown for 2,074 yards, eight touchdowns, five interceptions and has a 87.1 passer rating with a 63.8% completion rate.
Stefanski said that with Watson back nothing is awkward between the two signal callers, though the writing is on the wall that Watson will take over as the starter when he’s eligible.
“You guys know the two parties at hand here,” Stefanski said. “These are professionals. These are good people. They’re friends. I think that is probably the most important thing.
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“Jacoby’s our quarterback. He has been since the beginning of the season. So, it won’t be awkward at all,” running back Nick Chubb said. “But we’re also excited to see Deshaun come out and get some reps and see how he’s doing.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.