Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since his 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal-conduct policy took effect on Aug. 30.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanksi declined to go into details on how the team plans to divide practice reps between Watson and quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has started each game for Cleveland this season.
“Deshaun can practice today,” Stefanksi told reporters following Wednesday’s walkthrough. “I’m not going to get into the reps he’s getting. … It’s going to be good to have him out there at practice with his teammates.”
Under the terms of the settlement reached between the league and the NFL Players Association following an appeal of Watson’s initial six-game suspension, Watson had not been permitted to practice until this week. Watson previously was permitted to participate in on-site rehab with the medical staff, meet with non-football staff, attend meetings and meet individually with certain coaches beginning on Oct. 10.
In issuing Watson’s six-game punishment in August, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson wrote that “by a preponderance of the evidence,” Watson, alleged by more than 20 women to have committed sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions, engaged in “sexual assault; conduct that poses a genuine danger to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or puts at risk the integrity of the NFL.”
Stefanski acknowledged Wednesday that the team does not have a “handbook” for integrating Watson back into practice, while still preparing Brissett for Sunday’s game at the Buffalo Bills.
“For us, we’re just — with the information available to us — trying to make good decisions for the team,” Stefanski said. “Again, Deshaun can come back to practice. That’s the next step. So we’ll get him out there and practice, but Jacoby’s starting. [Brissett is] going to put everything he has into this game like he does each week. His preparation is not changing. My preparation with him is not changing.”
Stefanski cited the work Watson did with the team during the offseason as bankable reps that Watson can use to study as he prepares for his return to game action. Watson is expected to start the Browns’ Week 13 game against the Texans when he is eligible to return.
“I think he has a lot of reps he can rely on, and can watch the tape of him running plays that he’ll be asked to run when it’s time for him to play,” Stefanski said. “But the most important thing right now is getting ready for Buffalo and getting Jacoby ready to play.”