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It’s anyone’s guess how rusty Deshaun Watson will be upon his return Sunday after nearly a two-year absence, but if experience equals expertise then Joe Montana is exactly the right person to ask.
Montana sat out all but one game over a two-year span of his storybook career from 1991-93. He understands what it’s like to miss a long time then return. That is exactly Watson’s situation this weekend.
“Guys are used to getting hurt and missing a number of games and it’ll take a while, even in practice, to get used to things,” Montana said Thursday in an interview with FOX News Digital. “But he’ll jump in the saddle fairly quick. Obviously, with a different team, so that’ll take a little bit of adjusting also at the same time.”
Montana Injury Led To 49ers Departure
Montana suffered an elbow injury in the 1991 preseason that forced him to miss that season and all but a half of the final game during the 1992 season. He didn’t start another game until Sept. 5, 1993.
So Montana’s time between starts was 615 days. Watson will go 700 days between starts when his Cleveland Browns kick off against the Houston Texans.
There are, of course, differences. Montana was recovering from an injury. And he was 37 years old when he returned to play. Watson has not been injured and he’s 27.
But there are also similarities. Like Watson, Montana returned with a brand new team. Watson was traded from the Texans to the Browns in the offseason just as Montana was traded from San Francisco to the Kansas City Chiefs.
And like Watson, Montana faced questions about how he’d play.
That’s obviously the big one for the Browns.
“…How well will he perform? I put my money that he’d be average maybe a little bit better than what he’s normally playing at just because no matter what you really do in practice and how physically you stay in shape or do the things you need to do, there’s nothing like the real-time game stuff,” Montana said.
“And it’ll take him a little bit. I don’t think it’ll take him too long to get back in the swing but it’ll take a game or two.”
It didn’t take Montana that long. He threw 3 TD passes his first game with the Chiefs and helped them get to the AFC Championship game.
Watson needs to perform well immediately because the Browns own a 4-7 record and are three games behind the Ravens and Bengals in the AFC North. So there is no time to waste.
Montana and Watson are not, by the way, unique to long quarterback layoffs.
Watson Long Layoff Not Unique
Michael Vick started all 16 games of the 2006 season for the Atlanta Falcons and then was out the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons while in prison in connection to a federal dog fighting charges. Vick was suspended without pay for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy and although he was back in 2009, he returned as a backup with the Philadelphia Eagles.
It wasn’t until 2010 that Vick regained a full-time starting job so it was 1,351 days between his last start in 2006 and first of the 2010 season.
Tom Brady missed all but one quarter of the 2008 season before returning for the start of the 2009 season. Brady threw 28 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions that season. The Patriots were eliminated in the wild card round.
Andrew Luck missed the entire 2017 season with a shoulder injury but threw 39 touchdown passes in 2018.
And Teddy Bridgewater missed 19 months in 2016 and ’17 due to a non-contact injury in a preseason practice.
All of those absences came as a result of injuries. And so there is one significant difference between them and Watson.
All those players required rehabilitation and, yes, massage therapy. Watson missed 700 days because of his massage therapy.