Browns QB Deshaun Watson to start versus Cardinals after missing most of month with shoulder injury

By TOM WITHERS – AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Deshaun Watson is going to try again.

Cleveland’s quarterback, who was sidelined for all but 12 plays in four October games with a strange and confusing right shoulder injury, will start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said after Friday’s practice.

Watson was dealing with a strained rotator cuff, an injury he first suffered on Sept. 24 against Tennessee. Watson missed three complete games and was on the field for less than a quarter on Oct. 22 against Indianapolis – his last start.

On Thursday, Watson said he “jumped the gun” and came back too quickly against the Colts.

After spending three straight days of practice this week, Watson, the coaches and the team’s medical staff believe he is ready again.

“Everybody’s comfortable and Deshaun’s definitely comfortable,” Stefanski said. “He had a great week of practice.”

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Watson, injured early on a running play and having his best game since joining the Browns, took all the reps in the red zone during the portion of Friday’s workout that was open to members of the media.

Watson never seemed to cut completely loose on any of his throws, and was off the mark with a couple of attempts.

Watson didn’t speak to reporters afterward, but he took playful jabs from linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who poked fun at the QB when he saw him sitting at his locker while still wearing his helmet.

“You can take it off,” Walker said. “We know you’re playing.”

Now that their quarterback looks healthier and ready to play, the Browns have to hope that a few drama-filled weeks are behind them.

There were mixed messages about Watson’s injury, which was first diagnosed as a bruise before being treated as a strain. Watson made a big lie by saying he had “microtears” in his rotator cuff and a 4 to 6 week recovery period and the team didn’t object to putting any time frame on his return.

The Browns went 2-2 in the four games they played without Watson. Backup PJ Walker helped Cleveland upset San Francisco on Oct. 15, then came off the bench after Watson took a shot on the shoulder to beat the Colts.

Stefanski said he doesn’t feel the need to change the game plan to keep Watson safe.

“Deshaun has been playing this game for a long time,” he said. “He understands how to protect himself. As you can imagine, our offense, our offensive line, you want to protect your quarterback, but you also understand the game.

“So he knows how to defend himself. He knows when to go out of bounds, when to slide, those types of things. But he’s a very competitive player, and he makes plays with his feet. So it’s part of the game.”

Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett said having Watson back is a big boost.

“He praises us,” Garrett said. “He was a great inspiration in the locker room and on the field, even though he wasn’t playing. But seeing him on the field doing his thing, balling out, having fun, supporting the boys takes it to another level.”

NOTES: Starting CB Greg Newsome II (groin) will miss Sunday’s game. WR David Bell (knee) and DE Alex Wright (knee) are also out. … Rookie RT Dawand Jones (shoulder) is listed as questionable. If Jones is unable to play, James Hudson III will take his place.


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