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Deshaun Watson returns to play on Sunday against the Houston Texans. And Wednesday was the first day in which he could speak to reporters since being activated onto the Cleveland Browns roster.
But Watson didn’t make himself available to reporters as many NFL quarterbacks do on a typical NFL work week. He may still speak Thursday or Friday or face an NFL fine.
“That’s not my department,” Cleveland Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said.
Watson remained out of reach of cameras and microphones, but other people were doing plenty of talking about the quarterback’s return.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for him to come back,” Browns running back Nick Chubb told reporters. “He’s special, a playmaker. He puts the ball exactly where he needs it to go. Guys like that. Guys are excited. We all are. We’re ready.”
Cornerback Denzell Ward said Watson has looked like an elite quarterback in practices.
“Yeah, you definitely see that in Deshaun,” Ward said. “We have seen that since camp and even the practices now when we are going against him and he was filling in as the second-team quarterback. You see just the passes that he is capable of making, going through his reads and just the type of player that he is.”
Everyone Talking About Watson
Watson will have missed 700 days between starts and the absence included an 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The NFL investigated Watson after he was sued by two dozen Houston-area female massage therapists, all claiming the quarterback sexually harassed and abused them.
It’s a stunning coincidence Watson’s return will come in the same city he allegedly carried out his misdeeds and against the team he played on the past five seasons before being traded to the Browns in March.
The Texans are in the midst of a terrible 1-9-1 season that has already seen them bench starting quarterback Davis Mills and may culminate with the firing of coach Lovie Smith. So, yeah, it’s been bad.
Staying on theme, Smith is kind of expecting the worst when his team sees Watson. At least that’s what he’s telling his players.
“We’re telling our guys we’re going to see the best version of Deshaun,” Smith said. “I think you go into every game that way. We have no idea. He hasn’t played for a long period of time, but we hope there is some rust and all those things. But no, that’s not what we’re telling them.
“We’re showing them the stats. One of the best offenses in the league statistically, adding a great player, so that should say that they’re going to be better.”
Sunday’s game is clearly about more than football. According to multiple reports, 10 of the Watson’s alleged victims plan to attend the game to make sure their stories and voices still matter, per attorney Tony Buzbee.
Buzbee, who was unavailable for comment to OutKick on Wednesday, represented 24 women in civil actions against Watson. Thirty women also accused the Texans of helping to empower Watson to act as he did against them. All 30 claims against the Texans were settled and 23 of 24 against Watson were settled with one lawsuit being dropped altogether.
Houston Area Women’s Center deputy CEO Sonia Corrales said she’s supportive of the alleged victims attending Sunday’s game so as to keep attention on the “assault survivors” as much as what it will be on Watson.
“The focus and the conversation about the trauma and the impact that sexual violence has on survivors is just as important,” Corrales said, “as the football game that is being played.”
Nathaniel Hackett Makes Another Misstep
The Denver Broncos are feeding their fans a mistake sandwich this year with quarterback Russell Wilson struggling in his first season as the starting quarterback and coach Nathaniel Hackett struggling during his first season as coach.
The problem is most teams can survive the struggles of the quarterback. Or even some problems from the head coach. But both?
It’s a mess.
Hackett didn’t help matters on Wednesday. Asked if there is any scenario that would lead him to bench Wilson, Hackett replied apparently out of reflex.
“Right now, no,” Hackett said.
Whenever a coach, general manager, or anyone in ownership uses the term “right now” it means watch out for a week from now. Or a month from now.
It offers equivocation while trying to sound unequivocal. You have no idea how many coaches and GMs use “right now,” to keep from fibbing about what’s about to happen.
Veteran reporter Mike Klis of 9NEWS recognized this red flag immediately Wednesday and followed up with Hackett.
This reporting saves Hackett from an unforced error. And it saves Wilson from more embarrassment in what has easily been the worst of his 11 NFL seasons.
So while most eyes are on what Hackett might do with Wilson, that misses the point. Because the Broncos are more likely to fire the coach than cut the quarterback after this season.
Multiple NFL sources have told OutKick they Denver to fire Hackett. It will come if the club continues to lose (his issue as the head coach) while averaging an NFL low 14.3 points per game (again, Hackett’s issue as the offensive play-caller most of the season).
Right now, a final decision has not yet made.
The Broncos walking away from Wilson is a practical impossibility. Because his contract ia already written in cement. Cutting the player with a $245 million contract that includes a whopping $124 fully guaranteed would practically cripple the team’s salary cap.
It would cost the team $39 million in dead cap money to cut Wilson with a post-June 1 designation.
That means it would cost $17 million more against next year’s cap to cut Wilson than to keep him. And that’s understanding that another $34 million in dead money would be on the Denver cap in 2024 without Wilson on the roster.
So it’s more palatable to try to find a new head coach that could return Wilson’s game to what it once was rather than 1. stay the course, 2. keep the coach and get rid of the quarterback or 3. blow the whole thing up.
Rodgers Playing Sunday, But Open To Sitting?
Aaron Rodgers, nursing a broken thumb that is still healing and a rib injury that threatened to cost him playing time, told reporters on Wednesday he is feeling better than expected.
So he’s playing on Sunday at Chicago (which he owns).
But if the Packers (4-8) get eliminated from contention, Rodgers says he understands the team might make a change. Green Bay might want to turn to backup quarterback Jordan Love.
“I’d love to finish the season out, but I understand this is a business and there’s a lot of us kind of older guys who play a decent amount and they might want to see some younger guys play,” Rodgers told reporters. “Hopefully we don’t have to have that conversation.
“But if that conversation comes up, I’ll approach that with an open mind and without any bitterness or resentment.”
This comment is so Rodgers. Over the past two seasons he’s often considered being somewhere other than under center in Green Bay.
He wasn’t happy with management after the 2020 season and actually wanted out. The sides resolved that. Then Rodgers last year openly discussed the possibility of retirement.
Now he’s talking about a hypothetical that would land him on the bench.
All his past discussions have ultimately led to Rodgers getting more from the Packers. He got more power on matters of roster building after 2020. He got more money in the way of $50 million per season contract after 2021.
Rodgers plays football but he’s also played the Packers like a fiddle in recent years. The only question if he agrees to take a seat quietly is what he would get in return.