Browns’ Deshaun Watson on rust

BEREA, Ohio — After struggling in his first game in 700 days, Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson said he expects to do better against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

“I don’t know when it’s going to come back,” Watson said Thursday. “I don’t know if it was last week, this week. My job is to keep getting better and when it clicks, it clicks and everyone will feel it.”

Watson was serving an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct guidelines by sexually assaulting massage therapists, as defined by the league. He also sat out all of last season after demanding a trade from the Houston Texans.

In Week 13, Watson failed to lead the Browns to an offensive touchdown against his former team. He also completed 12 of 22 passes for 131 yards and threw an interception into 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 in 2020 with 4,823 passing yards, said several of his misfires were due to “mechanical” and “fundamental” issues. As well as saying he still needs to improve his condition, Watson admitted it was emotional to return to Houston after lockdown.

“The last week was very busy. The anticipation of being back on the field. The anticipation of returning to my former team. The anticipation of playing against former team-mates and being in front of a crowd that used to cheer me on at the time,” said Watson, who was heavily booed during the game but also had plenty of fans looking for his autograph before kick-off.

“Well, all that stuff was definitely, it was a lot. I am a human. Well, I’m definitely having things on my mind. I’m glad that’s out of the way, I’m glad we won. 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 have to go out there and make sure we’re executing the game plan.

Watson was suspended after being accused of sexual assault and other sexual misconduct by more than two dozen women during massage sessions. Watson has not been criminally charged. He has settled 23 of the civil lawsuits against him; two lawsuits remain active. Watson has denied any past wrongdoing, although he has declined to answer questions about the allegations or his league-mandated therapy since returning from suspension.

The Browns are 5-7 but have won two straight games to keep their tenuous playoff hopes alive.

Watson said that as he regains his feel, readjusts to the pace of the game and adjusts to working with his new receivers as well as Browns coach and offensive playcaller Kevin Stefanski, he will improve the way he plays in Houston — starting this weekend against the Bengalis.

“It was my first time in live action with Kevin. He has to feel how I feel or I have to feel how he feels. And we need 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 these guys are different route runners. So to be able to know, how they will come out, when they come out, how they will come out and where they will go.

“It takes a little time. But I have to be able to adapt quickly.” Browns’ Deshaun Watson on rust

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