BEREA, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The first wave of the media circus came to town Wednesday for Deshaun Watson’s return to practice.
Cameramen and producers from the national networks staked out the doorway waiting for the escort to the locker room even though Watson would not be speaking.
Once practice began Wednesday afternoon, all eyes were on No. 4.
Watson, who smiled after every throw, was clearly happy to be back on the field.
“He was able to be a part of the walkthrough for the first time this morning,” Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said 15 minutes before they took the field Wednesday. “I am not going to get into the specifics of what reps he is getting, what Jacoby [Brissett] is getting and what Josh Dobbs is getting. We really don’t do that for any of the guys. It is going to be good to have him out there at practice with his teammates.”
Watson took the third and fourth reps in line behind Brissett and Dobbs for most of the portion of practice that was open to reporters.
It was Watson’s first full team workout since he began his 11-game suspension as a result of a disciplinary settlement with the NFL stemming from sexual misconduct allegations from nearly two dozen women filed in Texas civil court. 23 of those lawsuits have been settled with two remaining active. Watson also agreed to pay a $5 million fine.
“That was a big part of our offseason and then the spring and the summer getting Deshaun reps,” Stefanski said. “I think you bank those reps. I think he has a lot of reps that he can rely on and can watch the tape of him running plays that he will be asked to run when it is time for him to play.
“The most important thing right now is getting ready for Buffalo and getting Jacoby ready to play.”
The impending return of Watson presents an interesting dynamic for the Browns when he replaces Brissett, who has done a quality job starting in his place through nine games.
Brissett doesn’t seem all that concerned with it.
“We have talked about a lot of things going into practice and stuff like that of how things will be split up,” Brissett said. “I feel confident that I will be more than fine going into the game.”
As far as the split of practice reps, Brissett isn’t wasting any energy worrying about how they will be divided the next two weeks.
“That is not my job to balance it,” Brissett said. “That is the coach’s job to balance how he splits things up and stuff like that. I just have to go out there and prepare how I always prepare, do my job and then control what I can control. That is something I can’t control, and I am honestly not trying to.”
Brissett and the 3-6 Browns have begun preparations for Sunday’s game against the Bills. After that one more game at home against Tom brady and the Buccaneers await before Watson’s reinstatement November 28.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said last month at the owner’s meetings that Watson has been meeting the terms of the disciplinary settlement and is on track for reinstatement.
Watson’s first game will be against his former team in Houston on December 4.
The Browns acquired Watson from the Texans in March for six draft picks, including three first rounders, and then gave him a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.