Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since his 11-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy went into effect Aug. 30.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanksi declined to elaborate on how the team plans to split practice reps between Watson and quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has started every game for Cleveland this season.
“Deshaun can train today,” Stefanksi told reporters after Wednesday’s tour. “I’m not going to go into the reps he’s getting. … It will be good to have him training with his teammates.”
Under the terms of the settlement reached between the league and the NFL Players Association after an appeal against Watson’s initial six-game ban, Watson was not allowed to practice until this week. Watson has previously been allowed to attend on-site rehab with medical staff, meet with non-football staff, attend meetings and meet individually with certain coaches from October 10.
At the issue of Watson’s six-game sentence in August, Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson wrote that Watson, who is said to have committed sexual misconduct by more than 20 women during massage sessions, “on the overwhelming evidence” engaged in “sexual assault”; conduct that poses a real threat to the safety and well-being of another person; and conduct that undermines or threatens the integrity of the NFL.”
Stefanski admitted on Wednesday that the team had no “manual” for getting Watson back into practice while he’s still preparing Brissett for Sunday’s game at the Buffalo Bills.
“For us, we’re just trying to make good decisions for the team with the information we have,” said Stefanski. “Again, Deshaun can return to training. That’s the next step. So we bring him out and practice, but Jacoby starts. [Brissett is] put everything he’s got into this game like he does every week. His preparation doesn’t change. My preparation with him doesn’t change.”
Stefanski cited the work Watson has done with the team during the off-season as a bankable representative that Watson can use to learn as he prepares for his return to the game. Watson is expected to start the Browns’ Week 13 game against the Texans if he can return.
“I think he has a lot of replays that he can rely on and he can look at the tape he’s playing plays that he’s supposed 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.”