Watson expected to play preseason opener; Browns players eager for resolution

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Aug. 5—Deshaun Watson is expected to play when the Browns open their 2022 preseason Aug. 12 against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. It would be his first NFL game since the 2020 finale when he played for the Houston Texans.

When Watson plays in a regular season game continues to be a dark mystery.

Watson sat out the 2021 season with the Texans for two reasons: He wanted to be traded, and 22 massage therapists sued him on allegations of sexual misconduct.

The list eventually grew to 24 therapists suing Watson. He was not suspended or put on the commissioner's exempt list in 2021.

#Browns right guard Wyatt Teller is eager for a resolution on Deshaun Watson's suspension, but he is trying to block out the distraction. pic.twitter.com/hMkJhX8HSt

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) August 5, 2022

The Browns acquired Watson in a trade with the Texans on March 18 for six draft picks, knowing he would eventually be suspended for at least part of 2022 if not the whole season. He has been with the Browns since the start of the offseason program in April. He has looked precise passing the ball, but practice does not duplicate game conditions.

"I wouldn't say that I see 'rustiness,'" Coach Kevin Stefanski said before practice Aug. 5. "These preseason games will be an opportunity to play when it's a game setting. The defense can come after you and you're truly in a game. I think that that will really be more when you get closer to game reps than say a practice."

To briefly recap, disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson on Aug. 1 recommended Watson should be suspended six games for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy regarding the sexual misconduct lawsuits.

Storm clouds hover over the #Browns practice fields during training camp Friday. pic.twitter.com/cqoLQaUAvp

— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) August 5, 2022

The NFL appealed her decision on Aug. 3. The league is asking for a longer suspension, and a fine. The appeal also says Watson should seek "a professional evaluation and treatment as determined by medical experts," the league said in a statement Aug. 3.

The NFLPA on Aug. 5 announced on Twitter it has filed a written reply brief to the NFL's appeal.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug. 4 appointed former New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey to hear the appeal. Now that Harvey has the response from the union, he can examine everything and issue an "expedited" decision to comply with the wording of the personal conduct policy of the CBA. The CBA does not define "expedited" in terms of days.

Harvey's decision, according to the CBA, is binding. But the union could still try to take the NFL to court if it doesn't like his decision.

"Obviously, we want to know what's going on and be done with it," right guard Wyatt Teller said before practice Aug. 5. "If any team was in that situation, that's what they'd want to know.

"I'm focused on my footwork, reach block — there are a lot more things I'm worried about more than that. But, yeah, we've got to take what's going on and understand what's happening and it is what it is."

Stefanski said he is waiting until he has more clarity on how long Watson will be suspended before giving more practice time to Jacoby Brissett. Since the union did not appeal Robinson's ruling, Watson's suspension will be a minimum of six games, unless Harvey determines it should be reduced or that there should be no suspension. That would be extremely unlikely.

PHOTOS: Browns training camp practice, Aug. 5, 2022

"We'll just kind of await clarity on the situation but just continue to move ahead with what we're doing," Stefanski said. "We're just controlling what we can control. Understand that this is a process, and I'll continue to make decisions with the information I have. I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the various scenarios — kind of just deal with what's in front of me."

Second-year cornerback Greg Newsome II is following the lead of his head coach.

"I would definitely like to see it resolved, but at the end of the day, that's none of my business," Newsome said. "We've got to find a way to win games, whether he's out there or whether he's not. When we're at practice, we're focused on practice. When we're off the field. We're focused on getting better for the next practice."

The Browns practice Aug. 6 and Aug. 7 then have Aug. 8 off.

Harris poked in eye

Finally, some not-so-bad news on the injury front. Starting center Nick Harris walked into the building during practice Aug. 5. Afterward, the Browns reported Harris was poked in the eye and that he will be OK.