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Browns ‘devastated’ for Deshaun Watson, but goals for season don’t change after franchise QB’s injury

BEREA — The news stunned the organization.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson, who had finally started to play well in his second turbulent season with the Browns, will have surgery to repair a broken bone in the right shoulder. He’s expected to be ready for the 2024 season but will be unable to finish this one, which held so much promise after he led the 33-31 comeback win Sunday in Baltimore.

As saddened and sympathetic as general manager Andrew Berry, coach Kevin Stefanski and his teammates were Wednesday, everyone was quick to make it clear Watson’s injury doesn’t end their season. The Browns are 6-3, in position for an AFC playoff spot and in contention for their first AFC North title.

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“The ultimate goal is that Super Bowl, so I won’t have that opportunity, but my teammates got the opportunity and I pray and know that they’ll do whatever they can to get that ultimate goal,” Watson said.

Stefanski shared the news and addressed the team in the morning, telling everyone they have a job to do Sunday and the goals don’t change.

“He just put 1-0 up after the devastating news — 1-0 because it doesn’t change and that’s what we’re here to do,” safety Rodney McLeod said of the focus each week.

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“We all understand that it sucks losing Deshaun, but we have an opportunity to keep the season going,” linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. said. “We’re in a great position right now. We control our own destiny and that’s our mindset.”

Watson, 28, said he was injured on a hit Sunday in the first quarter but didn’t know the exact play. He finished the game and went 14-for-14 for 134 yards and a touchdown in the second half despite a painful throwing shoulder and high left ankle sprain.

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MRIs on Monday and Tuesday revealed the severity of the injuries, including the displaced fracture of the glenoid bone, the socket portion of the shoulder joint. Watson wanted to continue the season, but the doctors were adamant he needed surgery to avoid further structural damage.

“This injury in a thrower and with the repetitiveness of throwing a football a couple of hundred times a week, realistically, it could create significantly more problems for the shoulder and make the injury that much more severe,” Berry said. “So this was a pretty clear medical recommendation.”

The surgery will be in Los Angeles with orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache and is expected to be next week. Watson said he hopes to start throwing in two or three months.

Stefanski picked rookie fifth-rounder Dorian Thompson-Robinson over journeyman P.J. Walker to replace Watson on Sunday against the Steelers (6-3) at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Thompson-Robinson’s first start was a disaster — three interceptions in a 28-3 loss to the Ravens on Oct. 1 — but that was on short notice and Stefanski has seen growth. Walker won two of three games filling in for Watson but threw five interceptions and lost a fumble.

Watson missed nearly four full games last month with a right rotator cuff strain sustained when he took a hit Sept. 24 against the Titans. He returned Nov. 5.

Berry was adamant the fracture is a “completely new” injury and not related to the strain. Watson said he had “no idea.”

Watson was acquired in a controversial trade with the Texans in March 2022 for a net of five draft picks, including three first-rounders. The Browns signed him to a five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract in order to finalize the deal.

He served an 11-game suspension to begin last season following more than two dozen sexual misconduct allegations and has started 12 of 26 games in his time with the Browns. That will be 12 of 34 when the regular season ends.

“Obviously we are very disappointed and devastated for Deshaun, especially given all that he has battled and gone through medically this season, and especially in light of how well he’s played since his most recent injury,” Berry said.

Berry said the Browns will add a third quarterback in the near future, either to the practice squad or active roster, but whom had yet to be determined. He was asked about signing an experienced veteran. Matt Ryan, a four-time Pro Bowler with the Falcons who’s retired, and Nick Foles, who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles and is a free agent, would be potential options.

“We’ll always be open-minded,” Berry said. “But really our focus is with the guys on the team currently.”

Berry was asked several questions about not adding a quarterback at the trade deadline despite Watson coming off the rotator cuff strain. He said Watson was “completely healthy” at the time and he liked the quarterback room.

Joshua Dobbs would’ve been a natural fit. He was with the Browns last season and throughout this offseason before being traded to the Cardinals in August so the Browns could move up from the seventh round to the fifth round in the 2024 draft. The Cardinals traded Dobbs and a conditional seventh-round pick at the Oct. 31 deadline to the Vikings for a sixth-round pick.

Dobbs is 2-0 for the Vikings, including a come-from-behind win off the bench the week of the trade. Berry was asked if he regretted trading him.

“There will be a time for reflection for everything over the course of the year, but that’s really not top of mind right now,” he said. “We’re 6-3 and focused on this playoff push. We’re focused on the Steelers.”

Berry wouldn’t say if he seriously considered adding a quarterback at the deadline. Washington backup Jacoby Brissett, who started for the Browns during Watson’s suspension last year, reportedly was available for a third-round pick.

“I won’t go into the details,” Berry said. “We’re pretty active. We have a lot of discussions about a lot of different positions that can help the team. But, again, we do feel good about the room.

“It’s football. Guys do get hurt playing it. We’re going to move forward with the room and continue to win games.”

Watson had started to play well for the first time with the Browns. In the last three games he started and finished, the Browns were 3-0 and he combined to go 66-for-97 (68 percent) for 721 yards, five touchdowns, an interception and a 102.6 rating in wins over the Titans, Cardinals and Ravens.

His performance and the exhilarating rally vs. the Ravens had generated a lot of discussion about a return to the postseason and perhaps a deep run once they got there. The Browns have overcome adversity throughout the season, including season-ending knee injuries to right tackle Jack Conklin in Week 1 and running back Nick Chubb in Week 2.

“This is players, coaches and staff that have grown Teflon skin and cast-iron stomachs, and I’m proud of that and we’re going to have to rely on that as we move forward,” Berry said.

Trying to finish the push to the playoffs without the starting quarterback is on another level, but it’s been done before. McLeod and defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz were with the Eagles in 2017 when Carson Wentz sustained a knee injury late in the year, Nick Foles replaced him and led a run to a Super Bowl victory.

Berry also mentioned the 49ers reaching the NFC Championship Game last year with third-string rookie Brook Purdy.

“It’ll never be about one person,” he said. “We’re disappointed for Deshaun, but we’re excited about what lays in front of us because we have an opportunity to finish the job.”

The Browns have been carried this year by the No. 1-ranked defense, No. 2-ranked run game and strong special teams. McLeod said faith and a consistent attitude were the keys in the Eagles’ championship season.

“It really takes everybody continuing to do what they’ve done up to this point,” he said. “Just put in the work each and every day.

“This is the greatest team sport. Not one man determines a win or a loss.”

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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