As the workweek comes to a close, there’s an air of anticipation in Cleveland as Deshaun Watson appears poised to take the field without any restrictions for the first time in at least a month. The Cleveland Browns quarterback has not been designated on the Friday injury report leading up to their Week 9 matchup against the Arizona Cardinals, signaling his expected return to the starting lineup.
This lack of designation comes as a surprise to many, considering that Watson’s status has been a topic of discussion since Week 4. A shoulder injury suffered in the Browns’ Week 3 victory over the Tennessee Titans sidelined him for Week 4 and Week 6. He made a brief return in Week 7 but had to exit the game in the first quarter of the Browns’ win against the Indianapolis Colts.
Watson then sat out Week 8’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. During his absence, both rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and veteran PJ Walker took turns starting at quarterback, with Walker assuming the bulk of the signal-calling responsibilities.
Cleveland’s loss in Week 8 highlighted a consensus among observers that the Browns needed a more reliable option under center than Walker if they aimed to contend for the AFC North title. Despite this, the Browns refrained from making a move at the quarterback position at the trade deadline, opting to send Donovan Peoples-Jones to Detroit instead.
In the lead-up to Sunday’s game, Watson participated in practice on both Wednesday and Thursday and addressed reporters following the latter session. His comments regarding his health remained somewhat vague, echoing the sentiment that his injured rotator cuff was improving gradually. He expressed optimism about his condition, saying, “I mean, it’s getting better each and every day. The arrow’s going up. The process has been very, very good, and we’re just steady, just going day-to-day and just making sure that we’re doing everything we can to build that strength and everything.”
Watson’s shoulder issue has prompted intense scrutiny from local media, who closely monitor nuances such as the velocity of his practice throws, particularly after his passes appeared lacking in zip during his brief appearance against the Colts. Nevertheless, any conclusive data on Watson’s throwing strength remains undisclosed, leaving questions unanswered.
Watson did acknowledge that resting the previous week might have improved his chances of returning to action in Week 9, noting, “I guess it did. The biggest thing was they didn’t want to put me in the spot where I re-injured the shoulder. So there’s a fine line that you got to play with, and you just got to make sure you’re doing all the stuff that you need before you can go back out there.”
Throughout this process, the Browns have been tight-lipped, leaving media outlets to rely on limited practice observations and the Friday injury report for insights into Watson’s condition. While it was expected that Watson would be listed as questionable, the absence of any designation suggests that he is in the best possible shape since sustaining the initial injury.
With Deshaun Watson’s official return expected on Sunday, all eyes will be on how he performs, providing a clear indication of his true level of fitness.