'Work to do' for Watson but Stefanski says uncertainty not to blame for debut display

·2-min read

Deshaun Watson "understands there's work to do" following his Cleveland Browns preseason debut, according to head coach Kevin Stefanski.

Watson has not played a competitive game since January 2021 and is set to see that wait extended at least into October.

The Browns quarterback is facing a six-game suspension following a disciplinary hearing, although the NFL has appealed for a longer ban after sexual assault and misconduct allegations.

Watson, who faced 24 civil lawsuits, was not charged by two grand juries and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, but he apologised "to all of the women that I have impacted" ahead of Friday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

When the game got underway, Watson was clearly rusty, with his first pass in a Browns uniform an awful overthrow.

Although the Browns won 24-13 – having trailed 13-0 – Stefanski acknowledged Watson's debut might not have gone exactly as he planned, but the coach was asked if the uncertainty around his suspension had contributed to the shaky performance and replied: "I don't think so, I don't."

Stefanski said: "I think he probably wants some throws back.

"Obviously playing football for the first time in a while, it was important for him to get out there, with his team-mates, in this scheme, hearing a different voice in the helmet, those kind of things.

"I'm sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early, but I think he understands there's work to do."

While Watson's status has been unclear for some time, Stefanski explained the team had been working towards giving him his bow in preseason.

"It's been something we've been talking about throughout the last months and weeks, trying to figure out what the best path forward was not just for our quarterbacks but for our entire team," he said.

"We just thought getting him some time out there in a game setting made sense in this preseason."