BEREA, Ohio — After struggling in his first game in 700 days, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson said he expects to be better Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I don’t know when it’s going to come back,” Watson said Thursday. “I don’t know if it was going to be last week, this week. My job is to just keep getting better and when it clicks, it clicks, and everyone will feel that.”
Watson served an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy by committing sexual assault, as defined by the league, on massage therapists. He also sat out all of last season after demanding a trade from the Houston Texans.
In Week 13, against his former team, Watson failed to lead the Browns to an offensive touchdown. He also completed just 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and threw an interception in the end zone. Cleveland still won the game 27-14 thanks to a punt return touchdown and two defensive scores.
Watson, who led the NFL with 4,823 passing yards in 2020, said that several of his misfires were due to issues with “mechanics” and “fundamentals.” In addition to saying he still needed to improve his conditioning, Watson admitted it was emotional going to back to Houston on the heels of the suspension.
“The last week, it was a lot. The anticipation to be back on the field. The anticipation of going back to my former team. The anticipation, playing against former teammates and being in front of a crowd that used to cheer for me at the time,” said Watson, who was booed heavily during the game, but also had plenty of fans seeking his autograph before the game kicked off.
“So, all that stuff was definitely, it was a lot. I’m human. So, I definitely have things running through my mind. I’m glad that’s out the way, I’m glad we got the win. I’m just trying to look forward to this week. It’s going to be a hostile environment in Cincinnati. It’s going to be fun and we just got to go out there and just make sure we execute the game plan.”
Watson was suspended after being accused by more than two dozen women of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Watson wasn’t charged criminally. He has settled 23 of the civil lawsuits against him; two lawsuits remain active. Watson has denied all wrongdoing in the past, though he has declined to answer questions about the accusations or his league-mandated therapy since returning from the suspension.
The Browns are 5-7 but have won two games in a row to keep their faint playoff hopes alive.
Watson said as he regains his feel, readjusts to the speed of the game and adapts to working with his new receivers as well as Browns coach and offensive playcaller Kevin Stefanski, he will improve off the way he played in Houston — beginning this weekend against the Bengals.
“It was my first time in a live action with Kevin. He’s got to feel how I feel or I got to feel how he feel. And we’ve got to be able to work on the same page and see the same thing through the same lenses,” Watson said. “Every receiver is different. All those guys are different route runners. So being able to know how they’re going to come out when they’re going to come out, how they’re going to come out and where they’re going to be.
“It takes a little bit of time. But I’ve got to be able to adjust quick.”