Deshaun Watson injury puts Browns in awkward position, with plenty of questions to answer

This time, Kevin Stefanski eradicated doubt earlier within the week.

The Cleveland Browns head coach introduced Wednesday afternoon that backup quarterback P.J. Walker will begin in opposition to the Seattle Seahawks as Deshaun Watson rehabilitates his shoulder.

“With what occurred within the recreation, touchdown on his shoulder, there’s residual swelling that’s affecting his throwing,” Stefanski mentioned. “It’s one of the best factor for him to relaxation this week.”

The message appears easy — injured participant lacking recreation — and but it contrasts how the Browns have dealt with Watson’s availability in two prior video games this 12 months.

Forward of an Oct. 1 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, Watson was not dominated out till after a pregame throwing check. Final week, within the Browns’ slim victory in opposition to the Indianapolis Colts, Watson managed 5 cross makes an attempt earlier than Walker changed him. Watson wouldn’t return to the sector, however he additionally wasn’t dominated out as he stood on the sideline.

Questions surfaced about Watson’s want to play, Stefanski’s dealing with of an more and more unusual state of affairs, and the readability of communication between participant and coach.

Such questions are pure given the atypical circumstances surrounding the Browns’ acquisition of Watson and the historic $230 million absolutely assured contract they awarded him. Any funding as profitable as this can garner further scrutiny.

In order the Browns transfer ahead, they ask themselves a slew of questions: How is Watson’s well being impacting his manufacturing? How ought to the pocket-emptying funding influence threat tolerance? Does a playoff-caliber protection rush or ease the timeline of his return? And what classes ought to Cleveland study from predecessor Baker Mayfield enjoying via a lingering harm?

Yahoo Sports activities reached out to members of the Browns and league sources who’ve navigated related quarterback decision-making through staff and agent channels to raised perceive what’s at play.

Is Deshaun Watson injured, damage or each?

Watson’s well being is a vital beginning premise: The Browns don’t contemplate him wholesome.

NFL machismo tradition usually distinguishes between ache and harm, however one staff supply mentioned on situation of anonymity: “I do assume he’s really injured.”

“Bodily discomfort,” the supply added, is impacting Watson’s capability to throw.

That ingredient gave the impression to be misconstrued earlier in October when Stefanski mentioned he trusted Watson’s evaluation of his capability. Some puzzled: Did that imply Watson was bodily ready however not mentally assured sufficient to provide? One other learn says Watson needed to play however the coaches wanted to avoid wasting him from himself, and save the staff from enjoying with a participant unable to guard himself from additional harm a lot much less execute the model of play that will increase their probability of profitable.

Deshaun Watson’s well being standing has prompted extra questions than solutions to this point this season. (Picture by Dylan Buell/Getty Pictures)

Watson’s off-schedule performs, athleticism and highly effective arm helped energy his three Professional Bowl seasons in Houston.

Even when Watson has no structural harm and doesn’t want surgical procedure, swelling from what ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported is a pressure of the subscapularis throughout the rotator cuff can set off ache and weak spot. Regaining energy and velocity, Schefter added, are the following steps on Watson’s street again to his baseline manufacturing.

Watson accomplished simply considered one of 5 makes an attempt Sunday. He was off-target on early quick passes to working backs Jerome Ford and Kareem Hunt, then intercepted on a deep proper throw to receiver Marquise Goodwin. His lone 5-yard completion wasn’t sufficient to transform a third-and-11, after which a third-and-7 cross he did ship to a deep goal … was caught by the Colts, Watson staying on his again after a defender hit his shoulder and his head slammed the bottom. The interception was known as again, however Watson, to the sector, was not.

As one staff supply put it: You don’t wish to discipline a participant who’s wounded.

A lot much less one on whom the staff’s future relies upon so closely.

“It wouldn’t be sensible to disregard how a lot you’ve invested in him,” the supply mentioned, “to place him on the market to presumably get extra injured.”

However do the Browns wish to maximize Watson’s present availability to expedite return on their funding or do they wish to protect their funding for the longer term?

And is that future later this 12 months or starting subsequent?

What the Browns face subsequent in navigating Watson’s well being

A longtime agent who represents NFL quarterbacks mentioned they usually advise their shoppers that “it by no means pays to play via an harm.”

“I’m not saying don’t play via bumps and bruises,” the agent informed Yahoo Sports activities on situation of anonymity. “However I’m saying there is a time whenever you’re going to be injured and the tape you place up isn’t excellent and it’ll value you financially. Deshaun doesn’t have to fret about that. So Deshaun might have two reactions: ‘I need not play as a result of I’m protected by this contract’ or ‘Hey, I’m protected by this contract, I can push via it and if one thing occurs, perhaps I miss the remainder of the 12 months and have surgical procedure however I’m going to be high quality as a result of I’ve three extra years absolutely assured.’”

Watson’s inclination gave the impression to be to play as a lot as he might, and greater than his coaches thought he might, whether or not as a result of he believed he might mind-over-matter the harm or as a result of he needed to validate the funding he acquired.

The agent believed a staff just like the Browns, alternatively, is motivated to play Watson … so long as he can throw properly sufficient.

It appears, proper now, that Watson can’t.

The Browns watched Mayfield intestine via a tear and fracture in 2021 that he mentioned was “stopping his rotator cuff from firing.” The Browns’ scoring offense slipped from 14th to twentieth whereas Mayfield’s passer ranking dipped from 95.9 to 83.1. Browns brass discovered that it’s their job, entrance workplace and training workers alike, to step in and let capability to carry out at or close to typical degree information enjoying time quite than psychological toughness and ache tolerance. Stefanski acted on that precept in pulling Watson final recreation.

How lengthy will adequate rehabilitation take? The Browns might want to decide what threshold Watson’s worth outweighs the danger. If edge rusher Myles Garrett and Cleveland’s protection can proceed wrecking video games with out Watson’s assist, that ought to purchase him time. Garrett gained AFC Defensive Participant of the Week honors after compiling 9 tackles, two sacks, a pressured fumble and a blocked discipline purpose within the 39-38 win. Browns kicker Dustin Hopkins gained AFC Particular Groups Participant of the Week for the 15 factors he stacked in making all 4 of his field-goal makes an attempt and all three additional factors.

At 4-2, the Browns subsequent face NFC opponents within the Seattle Seahawks (4-2) and Arizona Cardinals (1-6) earlier than a pair of division video games.

AFC video games matter extra. Postseason video games matter extra. Whereas competing in a division the place each staff is not less than .500 complicates the playoff race, a wholesome late-season Watson ought to take precedence over a wholesome midseason one.

A minor vibrant aspect is the Browns are attending to see how playoff-ready their protection and particular groups are, together with two weeks in the past once they handed the 49ers their first lack of the season.

They’ll hold appreciating that as Watson rehabilitates. And so they’ll hope that Walker, with a full week of apply, will fare higher than he has to this point. The Browns gained each video games he performed, however he has accomplished simply 50% of cross makes an attempt for 370 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer ranking is 48.2.

Proper now, Watson’s well being may hold him from doing any higher.

“I can’t inform you how a lot time Deshaun has spent making an attempt to get again however we’ll proceed to make the sensible selections for our soccer staff and for him,” Stefanski mentioned. “He desires to play very badly. He additionally is aware of that rehab is the choice this week. He’s going to do the whole lot he can.”

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