Watson upbeat about his rehab progress from shoulder surgery

Mar. 30—The Browns' offseason program begins on April 15. It seems like little more than two weeks have passed since they were licking their wounds from being demolished by the Houston Texans, 45-14, in a wild-card playoff game on Jan. 13, but in reality, much has transpired since then.

General Manager Andrew Berry elected to sign Jameis Winston to back up starting quarterback Deshaun Watson. Media members, including me, and many fans wanted the Browns to re-sign Joe Flacco because Flacco led them to the playoffs by winning four straight games in December.

Only in Cleveland could the identity of the backup quarterback cause so much angst. What is most important is Watson is throwing the ball again and making steady progress from surgery in November to repair a fractured shoulder socket. Watson, who had a micro tear in his right rotator cuff in September, suffered the shoulder fracture Nov. 12 while playing the Ravens in Baltimore.

The progress report on Watson's recovery comes straight from the man himself, who in 2024 will be in the third year of the five-year contract he signed in March 2022 when the Browns acquired him from the Texans for six draft picks. Watson announced the news March 30 on his "QB Unplugged" podcast with quarterback coach Quincy Avery.

"The situation is good," Watson said. "We're in a great spot, right where we need to be. We have plenty of time to ramp up the throwing sessions and things like that, but everything is going pretty smooth.

"As long as I'm feeling well and the doctors and (physical therapists) and everyone are on the same page, we're in a good spot."

Watson did not go into detail about how often he is throwing the ball or at what distance. He warned against getting information from others on social media platforms.

Though the offseason program begins in two weeks, spring practice won't move outdoors until May when organized team activities begin. Coach Kevin Stefanski told reporters at the league meetings in Orlando that Watson could be throwing to receivers during those all-important OTAs.

"He's right where he is supposed to be, so I'd anticipate that he's throwing this spring with us," Stefanski said. "We'll see him in April and we'll just continue that rehab. I'll stay out of it, and the doctors and trainers will tell me when he's ready. I know he's doing a great job."

The Browns have provided everything for Watson to succeed. They fired offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt and replaced him with Ken Dorsey, who has a history of success with mobile quarterbacks. Dorsey worked with Cam Newton when Dorsey was with the Carolina Panthers and with Josh Allen when Dorsey was with the Bills. The Browns acquired speedy wide receiver Jerry Jeudy to give Watson another weapon.

It is impossible to overstate how important it is for Watson to follow the regimen the doctors and trainers have prescribed for him. He has played in 12 of 35 games in two seasons. He owes the Browns more than six games in 2024 if he has control over the situation.

—The Browns' lease on Cleveland Browns Stadium, where they've played since they were reborn as an expansion team in 1999, expires after the 2028 season. There is an ongoing debate on whether the current stadium should be renovated for about $1 billion or whether a domed stadium should be built on 176 acres near Cleveland Hopkins Airport that Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam have explored purchasing.

Fifty years ago, my brother and I had Browns season tickets at old Cleveland Stadium. We never minded sitting through nasty weather and neither, apparently, did the 75,000 other fans who packed the place for every home game. But times change and so does the customer base.

Watson would rather play in a dome, he said on his podcast with Avery. A domed stadium near the airport wouldn't open until 2029, which means Watson would be in the middle of a second five-year contract with the Browns if he is to play in it.

"Cleveland, as a fan base, is very tradition-like, very passionate," Watson said. "Once it's one way, it's kind of hard to change. I haven't talked to the Haslams personally about the stadium, but I think they're looking at it as an opportunity to grow Cleveland (with a new domed stadium).

"Anybody who would say it isn't an advantage, especially for quarterbacks, to be inside where it's warm, you're crazy. To be able to throw the ball with no wind or no lightning or no rain is definitely a key. If I had to pick, of course I'm going to go with a dome and a new facility."

Watson played home games in domed NRG Stadium in Houston when he played for the Texans from 2017-20.

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