OCTOBER 29: Watson is still expected to avoid an IR stint, per Schefter and Dianna Russini of The Athletic. A source tells Schefter that Watson is unlikely to be sidelined for more than two weeks, while Russini hears that Watson is “day-to-day.”
OCTOBER 25: The Browns will push back Watson’s second comeback attempt, with Kevin Stefanski ruling him out for Sunday’s Seahawks matchup. Walker, whom the Browns signed to their active roster today, will make another start. Stefanski confirmed (via NFL.com’s Andrew Siciliano) Watson has residual swelling after leaving Week 7 early but reiterated the latest MRI showed no additional structural damage.
Also, in addition to the practice squad acquisition of Jordan Wilkins yesterday, Cleveland enlisted further reinforcements at running back today, signing Nate McCrary to the practice squad, per Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. With Chubb on IR and Ford doubtful for Sunday, McCrary will compete with Wilkins for a potential opportunity to be elevated and play behind Hunt and Strong in Seattle this weekend.
OCTOBER 24: Deshaun Watson‘s return to action did not last long. The high-priced quarterback left the Browns’ Week 7 game after 12 snaps. While Watson is cleared to play, he continues to experience shoulder pain.
A Tuesday MRI did not reveal any additional injuries coming out of Cleveland’s high-scoring win in Indianapolis, per NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero. Watson confirmed he is dealing with a strained rotator cuff last week, and cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot adds the seventh-year QB battling is an injury in the subscapularis muscle, the largest in the rotator cuff.
Watson continues to deal with movement limitations, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who adds this particular injury can shelve pitchers for between four and six weeks. Doctors have informed Watson this is typically a four- to six-week injury. Watson sustained the injury against the Titans in Week 3 and missed Week 4 after a Saturday MRI revealed the extent of the malady. After Cleveland’s bye week, Watson rested again. Despite returning to practice last week, Watson remains far from 100%.
Sunday’s Seahawks matchup will mark five weeks from the initial injury, though it is unclear how much Watson set his recovery back by returning to face the Colts. The Browns have not decided on a course of action with their $230MM quarterback.
Watson, of course, enjoys unrivaled security due to his fully guaranteed contract. Rushing back would make little sense through that lens. A collision with Colts defensive lineman Dayo Odeyingbo led Watson out of the Browns’ Week 7 matchup, with Cabot adding the QB’s velocity was down due to this injury affecting his shoulder rotation. The 2022 trade acquisition entering concussion protocol came about because of the independent neurologist; he was cleared of a head injury soon after. But this shoulder problem persists.
If Watson cannot go, the Browns would again turn to P.J. Walker, whom they bumped ahead of Week 1 backup Dorian Thompson-Robinson earlier this month. It is fairly clear this issue will linger for the foreseeable future, which could lead to more Watson absences for the 4-2 team. For Walker to play in Week 8, the Browns must sign him to the 53-man roster. The ex-Panthers backup has made the rare transition from gameday elevation to to QB1, but the team has used up his three allotted elevations this season.
Additionally, the Browns are expected to be without running back Jerome Ford for a bit. The initial Nick Chubb replacement suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday, per Schefter, who classifies this as a “low grade” sprain that is likely to sideline the second-year back a week or two. The Browns signed Kareem Hunt in the wake of Chubb’s knee injury, and they acquired Pierre Strong from the Patriots before the season. Hunt logged 10 carries (for 31 yards) last week; Strong totaled eight (for 25).