BEREA – The Browns are planning on starting Deshaun Watson for Friday's preseason opener in Jacksonville. However, that may hinge on whether or not a decision is made in the NFL's appeal of his six-game suspension for personal conduct policy violations.
Coach Kevin Stefanski acknowledged prior to Tuesday's training camp practice that he had a plan for how to utilize the quarterbacks in the game. However, at the time, he wasn't prepared to make the announcement until he had a chance to speak to the team first.
Peter C. Harvey, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's designee to hear the league's appeal of Sue L. Robinson's ruling of a six-game suspension, could determine that Watson's suspension be extended to a full-year before Friday's kickoff. If that were to occur, per the personal conduct policy, that would mean the Browns quarterback would be banned from all team activities effective immediately.
Should Harvey not rule prior to Friday's game, or should he return a decision to keep the suspension at some total below a full-year ban, then Watson would be able to play until Aug. 30. If Watson is unable to play, Jacoby Brissett would start.
Brissett was signed on March 19, a day after Watson was acquired by trade from the Houston Texans, with the idea that he would start during any suspension Watson may serve. He has been getting first-team offensive snaps with Watson since July 30, the fourth full-squad practice of training camp.
Watson starting Friday is part of a wider plan by Stefanski to play most of his starters early on in the game. There's expected to be a few who won't be in the lineup, but a large percentage will play against the Jaguars.
Stefanski said on Tuesday the preseason plan did have a feel close to what he did in 2021.
"I think it will be similar, but I think you have to make decisions based on your team, and every year, things are different," Stefanski said. "I think the one thing of note is we have [the Philadelphia Eagles] coming in [preseason] Week 2 to practice versus them. I do think that is a great opportunity to get two really good days of work in a controlled setting where you do not have to play your starters as much in that [preseason] Week 2, per se.
"I do think [preseason] Week 3 we still treat as a dress rehearsal so to speak. Is it exactly the same plan as last year? No, just because it is not the same team, but I do believe that [preseason] Week 2 practices allow you to maybe not play guys in that second game as much.”
The Browns went through a closed practice early Wednesday afternoon before departing for Florida. Stefanski had planned on going a day early to the preseason opener in order to set aside time for "team-bonding" activities.
Whether Watson is able to complete that trip remains to be seen. Goodell has made it known that the league is seeking a full-year suspension upon appeal, just as it did going into the hearings with Robinson, the arbiter jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association.
"Because we’ve seen the evidence," Goodell told reporters in Minneapolis Tuesday of why the league believes a full-year suspension is necessary. "[Robinson] was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there was multiple violations here and they were egregious, and that it was predatory behavior. Those were always things we felt was really important for us to address and in a way that’s responsible."
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This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Deshaun Watson scheduled to start preseason opener for Browns