BEREA, Ohio (AP)Deshaun Watson’s return is either imminent, a day or two away or not happening for another few weeks.
Nothing is certain at the moment with Cleveland’s $230 million starting quarterback.
Dealing with a “tricky” injury he described as a strain – and not a bruise as previously reported by the team – to the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, Watson, who has already missed two games, said Wednesday he doesn’t know when he’ll be back.
“It can be any day,” Watson said. “It can be tomorrow. It could be Sunday. It can be two weeks from now. I’m not even sure. It’s day to day and I’m following the steps of the medical team and when that time is ready, then I’m going to go out there.
“I can’t put a timeline on anything right now.”
Watson didn’t practice Wednesday – he hasn’t since Sept. 29 – as the Browns (3-2) ramped up preparations for Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts (3-3).
Speaking to reporters for the first time in three weeks, Watson provided some details about the injury, which happened on a designed running play in Cleveland’s 27-3 win over Tennessee on Sept. 24.
Watson called it a strain, and said he has a “micro tear” in his throwing shoulder, an ailment more common to baseball pitchers than QBs. Working in concert with the team’s medical staff, he said he’s diligently rehabbing and making progress.
“It’s coming along. The arrow has been trending up,” he said.
However, Watson did not answer a question about whether he’s been able to throw with any velocity.
“It’s not so much of the pain. It’s mostly if I can throw the football,” he said. “The pain, I can deal with certain pain tolerance, but if I can’t control the football, I can’t throw the football with no velocity. If I can’t throw the football more than a certain amount of yards, then I don’t want to handicap the team.”
If Watson can’t play this week, the Browns will again start P.J. Walker, who was moved ahead of rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson on the depth chart a week ago and then made enough plays to help Cleveland stun San Francisco 19-17 on Sunday.
Coach Kevin Stefanski hasn’t ruled out Watson yet, but confirmed Walker will get the bulk of practice reps.
Stefanski has seen Watson throw in the past week, but wouldn’t say if the 28-year-old was close to playing.
“I’m just going to say he’s making progress,” Stefanski said.
Watson said he didn’t know the full extent of his injury until results from an MRI came back the night before the Oct. 1 game against Baltimore. He still wanted to try and play, but realized he couldn’t after struggling to throw without pain in an on-field workout three hours before kickoff.
As much as he wants to play, Watson won’t go back on the field if he’s not fully healthy.
“I don’t want to get out there and be hesitant throwing the ball or anything like that,” he said. “So I’m not going to put myself first in this situation. I’m going to put the team first. And the situation right now is P.J. (Walker) going out there and performing like he did Sunday to help his team win.”
The Browns are 1-1 without Watson. Thompson-Robinson started against the Ravens and threw three interceptions in a 28-3 loss. Walker was on the practice squad until a few days before the Browns shocked the 49ers.
Before getting hurt, Watson had his best game since being acquired last year from Houston. In his ninth start with the Browns, he completed 27 of 33 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns against the Titans.
The injury is another layoff for Watson, who sat out the 2021 season after demanding that the Texans trade him. Last season, he was suspended 11 games by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after he was accused of sexual assault and harassment by more than two dozen women.
While the latest setback isn’t something he can control, it’s nonetheless irritating.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Watson said. “I want to be on the field. … But it’s part of the game. It comes with it. I got to deal with the adversity and just take it as it comes and continue to be a leader as I am and keep helping the guys around me.
“And when that time come, I can step on the field and go out there and help the team win.”
NOTES: All-Pro G Joel Bitonio practiced for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery during the bye week. … LB Anthony Walker Jr. (concussion) and K Dustin Hopkins (personal) were out. … CB Greg Newsome II (hamstring), TE Harrison Bryant (hip) and RB Kareem Hunt (thigh) did side work. … Hopkins was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after making four field goals against the Niners.
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