Deshaun Watson is going to try again.
Cleveland’s quarterback, who was sidelined for all but 12 plays in four October games with a curious and confusing right shoulder injury, will start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said following Friday’s practice.
Watson has been dealing with a strained rotator cuff, an injury he first sustained on Sept. 24 against Tennessee. Watson missed three complete games and was on the field for less than one quarter on Oct. 22 against Indianapolis — his most recent start.
On Thursday, Watson said he “jumped the gun” and came back too fast against the Colts.
After throwing for three straight days of practice this week, Watson, the coaches and the team’s medical staff believe he’s ready again.
“Everybody’s comfortable and certainly Deshaun’s comfortable,” Stefanski said. “He’s had a really good week of practice.”
Watson, who was initially hurt on a running play while having his best game since joining the Browns, took all of the reps in the red zone during the portion of Friday’s workout open to media members.
It didn’t look like Watson fully cut loose on any of his throws, and he was off the mark with a few attempts.
Watson didn’t speak with reporters afterward, but he did take playful jabs from linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who poked fun at the QB when he saw him sitting at his locker while still wearing his helmet.
“You can take it off,” Walker yelled. “We know you’re playing.”
Now that their franchise quarterback appears healthier and is set to play, the Browns have to hope they have put a few drama-filled weeks behind them.
There were mixed messages about Watson’s injury, which was first diagnosed as a bruise before being called a strain. Watson further muddled things by saying he had “microtears” in his rotator cuff and presenting a 4-to-6 week recovery period while the team resisted putting any timeframe on his return.
The Browns went 2-2 in the four games they played without Watson. Backup P.J. Walker helped Cleveland upset San Francisco on Oct. 15, and then came off the bench after Watson took a shot to his shoulder to beat the Colts.
Stefanski said he doesn’t feel the need to alter the game plan to keep Watson safe.
“Deshaun’s been playing this game for a long time,” he said. “He understands how to protect himself. As you can imagine, our offense, our offensive line, you want to protect your quarterback, but you also understand the game.
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“So he knows how to protect himself. He knows when to get out of bounds, when to slide, those type of things. But he’s a very competitive player, and he makes plays with his feet. So it’s all part of the game.”
Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett said having Watson back is a big boost.
“It motivates us,” Garrett said. “He’s been a big motivator in the locker room and on the field, even though he has not been playing. But seeing him on the field doing his thing, balling out, having fun, supporting the guys just takes it to another level.”
Starting CB Greg Newsome II (groin) will miss Sunday’s game. WR David Bell (knee) and DE Alex Wright (knee) are also out. … Rookie RT Dawand Jones (shoulder) is listed as questionable. If Jones can’t play, James Hudson III will take his spot.