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Tuesday January 31st, 2023 7:25PM

Deshaun Watson set to return to Browns practice Monday

By The Associated Press
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BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Deshaun Watson has one last weekend off the field.

The Cleveland Browns' suspended quarterback can begin practicing on Monday as part of his settlement with the NFL after he was accused of sexual misconduct by two dozen women when he played for Houston.

Watson, who was acquired by the Browns in a controversial trade in March, was banned for 11 games in August for violating the league's personal conduct policy. He agreed to the suspension, a $5 million fine and to undergo counseling and treatment.

He returned to the team last month, but the three-time Pro Bowler has been limited to attending meetings, weight-room workouts and conditioning sessions with members of Cleveland's training staff.

That changes on Monday, when he'll be allowed to practice.

The Browns (3-5) play at Miami on Sunday and won't have their next on-field workout until Wednesday when Watson, who will be eligible to play on Dec. 4 — against Houston — can rejoin his teammates.

“I’ve been waiting. We're still waiting. I’m ready to play with him,” "said Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was also Watson’s teammate with the Texans. ”I’ve played with him before. He's a big energy booster for a team. He can go out there make some crazy throws, make some plays, and I think when he gets back we can open up our playbook with him a little different.

“It’s going to be exciting to see when he gets back. I’m just ready for it.”

Watson has always denied being inappropriate with the women, who claim he exposed himself and touched them inappropriately during massage therapy sessions. The 27-year-old settled 23 of 24 civil lawsuits brought against him. (In October, another civil lawsuit accusing Watson of sexual misconduct was filed in Texas.)

Two grand juries in Texas declined to indict him on criminal charges.

Watson was courted by other teams and initially turned down a trade to the Browns before changing his mind after the team offered him a five-year, $230 million contract that's fully guaranteed. The Browns sent three first-round draft picks to the Texans for Watson, and are counting on him to become a franchise QB.

Jacoby Brissett has played well while filling in at quarterback, but he'll soon step aside for Cleveland's final six games.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski declined to specify the team's immediate plans for Watson when he comes back next week.

“We kind of have a plan for that moving forward,” Stefanski said. “Deshaun is a great, great teammate. He has been awesome having him back in the building and in the meetings rooms.”

The Browns can't afford many more losses or their playoff hopes will vanish before Watson comes back. There's obvious incentive to play well to set up Watson's return to games, but All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said that can't be the focus.

“We’ve got to win regardless if he comes back or not,” Garrett said. "Anything can happen, praying to God that he’s healthy and everything goes right when he comes back, but I don’t plan on handing it to anyone.

“He’s coming back to us, so we’re all going to do our part and he’s going to come in and do an exceptional job, and we fully believe that. But we’ve got to win for the sake of winning, wanting to be great and do great for the sake of this city. Not just for him coming back.”

___

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