Deshaun Watson did not talk to the media Wednesday, but in the days leading up to his return to the field following a near-two-year absence, his Cleveland Browns teammates and colleagues are excited.
Watson will play his former team, the Houston Texans, after an 11-game suspension. He was accused of sexual misconduct in about two dozen civil lawsuits from massage therapists. He has settled 23 of the lawsuits ,and the attorney for the women said at least 10 of the women who accused the quarterback of wrongdoing will be at NRG Stadium for the game to serve as a reminder.
Watson’s teammates said they were excited about Watson’s return. Jacoby Brissett has led Cleveland to a 4-7 record and only three games behind the division-leading Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North with six games remaining on the schedule.
“We are all excited,” running back Nick Chubb said. “We have all waited a long time for him to come back, but it is the same thing. We have to go out there, we have to work, can’t get too distracted by anything and keep the main thing the main thing.”
Chubb surpasses 1,000 yards rushing for the fourth straight season and is posed to set a career-high in rushing touchdowns. He has 12 this season and had 12 in 2020.
“It is an excitement for sure,” linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah said. “We are a diverse team. Watson provides a diverse aspect of the offense to be in not a different type of system but provides more diversity. It is an excitement. Is it a different vibe in reference to our intention? No, our intention is still to win, still to work hard and still to execute.”
While Watson did not speak, quarterback coach Quincy Avery shed some light on how he has looked and stayed fit while being away from the team facility.
“I think he’ll handle that fine,” Avery told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer. “They’re going to be in a suite a bunch of seats up. I don’t know what impact that really has on him. But whatever makes (attorney Tony Buzbee) happy.”
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said he did not think Buzbee bringing Watson’s accusers to the game will be a distraction.
“I think a lot of that was just getting back in uniform, in the huddle, hearing my voice in the headset and those type of things,” Stefanski said. “That was all about the preparation. I don’t put much stock on that.”
Watson is set to play his first regular-season game in 700 days. He missed the entire 2021 season as he requested a trade from the Texans and then faced the accusations. He was not criminally charged.