Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson returned to practice this past week for the first time during his 11-game NFL suspension, and those who viewed him there thought he picked up right where he left off in the preseason.
Despite not being eligible to play until Dec. 4, Watson took some first-team reps this week, according to a team source, as the Browns balanced preparing for Sunday's game against the Bills while still being best positioned when their franchise quarterback returns in two weeks.
Watson had been unable to practice with the team since the start of his suspension on Aug. 30. As part of a settlement with the league and NFL Players Association, Watson agreed to an 11-game suspension, paying a $5 million fine and undergoing mandated treatment from professional behavioral clinicians following a league investigation into multiple accusations of sexual misconduct involving massage therapists.
Along with the first-team reps, Watson also worked the scout team for the Browns, imitating Josh Allen for the Cleveland defense as it prepares for another tough test in what's close to being a lost season.
The 3-6 Browns have little margin for error remaining. They've gotten consistent play from running back Nick Chubb while quarterback Jacoby Brissett has hovered around expectations. Cleveland's defense has drastically underperformed this season, giving up the second-most points in the league so far. And head coach Kevin Stefanski has been under fire for his play-calling and overall team preparedness.
Watson has continued to follow the terms of his suspension. He's expected to start on Dec. 4 against the Houston Texans in what will be his first NFL regular-season action in 700 days.