BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Hostile environments are part of life for visiting teams in the NFL – or sports in general.
Friday night in Jacksonville, with the stadium a third full, the boo birds were audible through the TV screen early in the game.
Left guard Joel Bitonio, who had the night off, noticed the boos didn’t last long.
“You know, I think once Deshaun came out of the game we got booed less but you go to a road game, they boo you anyway,” Bitonio said. “So we'll see how it goes. I'm sure, it seems like more than ever, Cleveland against the world, so we'll be ready for it.”
Watson is awaiting word from Peter Harvey concerning the NFL’s appeal of a six-game suspension handed down by former federal judge Sue L. Robinson, who ruled Watson violated the league’s personal conduct policy three different ways in four separate instances.
The league, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell don’t feel Robinson’s punishment went far enough considering Watson was sued by 25 women for sexual misconduct during therapeutic massage appointments. Watson settled 23 of the cases and another was dropped when a judge ruled the plaintiffs would be required to use their names. One suit remains active.
Prior to Friday night’s preseason opener, Watson apologized to the women who were “impacted” during a brief interview with team sideline reporter Aditi Kinkhabwala that was pre-taped.
The allegations against Watson combined with the $230 million contract the Browns gave him make him and the Browns a marked team.
“I'm sure in every stadium we go to we'll be booed,” Bitonio said. “I don't know if it'll get worse. I think people get tired of booing. I'm sure every time he goes out there, there'll be some sort of boo to start and we'll go from there.”
Watson looked rusty completing one pass for seven yards, but he was the victim of a pair of drops, penalties, a fumble and starting center Nick Harris was likely lost for the season due to a knee injury in three offensive series.
It begs the question, how much are the off-the-field troubles bothering Watson?
“I haven't talked to him about that. I'm sure not playing football in however long it's been is probably a bigger concern,” Bitonio said. “But the crowd was loud for a preseason game in Jacksonville. They got pretty loud down there. The whole offense was just a little sloppy to start. I think to put it on one person is tough. I think it's something we want to start faster. We had penalties and drops and bad throws and missed blocks. All those things just added to a sloppy start for us. I think if we can get off to a better start, it's going to help the whole operation.”