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Deshaun Watson gets full workload in practice, in line to start vs. Colts, listed as questionable

BEREA — Everything about Friday indicated Deshaun Watson will return to the lineup Sunday vs. the Colts.

He took all the first-team repetitions, was a full practice participant and threw with greater velocity, then received positive reviews from coach Kevin Stefanski and teammates.

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But the Browns stopped short of declaring Watson good to go for the game in Indianapolis. He was listed as questionable on the official injury report after missing the last two games with a strain in the right rotator cuff.

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“I want to see how he responds over the next 48 hours based on that full workload that he just got, but he looked good today,” Stefanski said.

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Defensive end Myles Garrett saw enough to feel confident he’d see Watson in the huddle vs. the Colts.

“He’s a franchise guy, always nice to have one of them around,” Garrett said. “He’s one of the best QBs in the league. There’s a whole lot to admire. I’m looking forward to seeing him because he’s one of the best shows on turf.”

The Browns were burned when Watson, coaches and teammates expected him to play against the Ravens on Oct. 1, a week after he was injured. He tested the shoulder the morning of the game and determined he couldn’t throw well enough to play. Rookie fifth-round pick Dorian Thompson-Robinson made his first NFL start and threw three interceptions in the 28-3 loss.

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This situation is different.

Watson had done only light throwing the week of the Ravens game and was hoping the arm would heal in time. He’s been rehabbing for nearly four weeks and practiced the last two days, making dozens of throws with zip.

Stefanski made it clear Watson’s availability vs. the Colts won’t be a gametime decision and he isn’t scheduled to test the arm Sunday morning. He practiced with a sleeve on the arm and a type of harness on the shoulder.

“Just want to see how his body responds,” Stefanski said. “Making progress every day.”

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If Watson doesn’t play, P.J. Walker would start his second straight game. He helped lead the 19-17 upset of the 49ers last week.

During the 20 minutes of practice Friday open to reporters, Watson was first up in drills and took the vast majority of repetitions in the red zone. He threw with more velocity than Thursday, when he practiced for the first time since Sept. 29 and was limited. He practiced fully Friday for the first time since Sept. 22.

“Looked like himself,” Garrett said. “Only he knows what he’s dealing with both mentally and physically at this point. I think he’ll be able to overcome whatever hurdles that he’s facing.”

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The obstacle has been Watson’s inability to throw with control and without discomfort. He said Wednesday he didn’t want to hurt the team and play while hesitant to throw but noted “the arrow’s been trending up.”

Watson, 28, was injured Sept. 24 during a 27-3 win over the Titans when he took a big hit to the back of the throwing shoulder from safety Amani Hooker. Watson hasn’t played since, but that was his best game with the Browns.

He went 27-for-33 (81.8 percent) for 289 yards and two touchdowns. In three games this season he’s completed 63.7 percent for 678 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions, 12 sacks and an 87.8 rating.

The Browns are eager for the return of the three-time Pro Bowler.

“He’s looking really good,” tight end David Njoku said. “So we’re excited for Sunday.”

Watson, who was suspended for the first 11 games last season, has played only nine of the 22 since arriving in Cleveland and signing a fully guaranteed five-year, $230 million contract.

“It’s definitely frustrating. I want to be on the field,” Watson said. “It’s part of the game. It comes with it. I got to deal with the adversity and just take it as it come and continue to be a leader as I am and keep helping the guys around me.”

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Coordinator Alex Van Pelt said Watson stayed engaged and prepared as if he would start even when he wasn’t practicing.

“He’s fully immersed in the game plan and ready to go if he feels up to it on Sunday, for sure,” Van Pelt said Thursday.

Watson was injured on a designed quarterback run, which has always been an integral part of his game. He said he doesn’t want to change his style but will try to protect himself better.

The quarterback runs have been part of Stefanski’s game plan with Watson behind center.

“We go into every game looking at what plays give us an advantage and where we go,” Stefanski said. “His ability to move is a big part of his game and will always continue to be, and then we’ll call it accordingly. You just look around the league, you’re going to have to make plays with your feet.”

Stefanski said there isn’t much concern about Watson reinjuring the shoulder by taking another big hit.

“He’s confident in all the work he’s put in,” Stefanski said. “Again, looked good at practice and then we’ll see how he responds from that practice.”

With Watson getting all the work Friday with the first-teamers, Walker was left with the scraps. He did take all the starting reps Wednesday, which would come in handy if he’s called upon to start or replace Watson vs. the Colts.

Walker went 18-for-34 for 192 yards with two interceptions, two sacks and a 45.2 passer rating vs. the 49ers in his Browns debut. He signed to the practice squad Week 1.

“We trust our guys really at every position,” Stefanski said. “Our backups stay ready, so they don’t have to get ready. And P.J.’s proven to do that in his career, so he’s ready if called.”

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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