Browns QB Watson 'looks like himself,' rotating days throwing as he recovers from shoulder surgery

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Deshaun Watson handled all his quarterbacking duties flawlessly on Wednesday except for the most important one.

He didn't throw.

While following a prescribed recovery plan, Cleveland’s quarterback took a day off from passing as he recovers from right shoulder surgery in November that ended his second season with the Browns after just six starts.

For now, Watson is throwing every other day during organized team activities (OTAs), according to coach Kevin Stefanski. On Tuesday, the team posted a video on social media of Watson throwing a pass at Tuesday’s workout.

But with reporters in attendance on Day 2, Watson wasn't able to show the progress he's made since the operation, which stopped his season and altered Cleveland's. The Browns wound up making the playoffs without him.

Stefanski has been impressed with what Watson has shown on the field so far.

“He looked like himself to me,” Stefanski said after practice. “I’ve been able to watch him the last couple of weeks now that we’ve gotten into Phase 2, so I’ve seen him throw. He’s making great progress and we will continue to just follow the medical team on this, but he looks like himself.”

Watson did not speak to reporters afterward.

This is a big season for the 28-year-old, who signed a fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Browns following a controversial 2022 trade from Houston. Watson was dealing with accusations of sexual harassment and assault made against him by massage therapists at the time of the deal.

He was suspended 11 games in his first season with Cleveland, and after starting slowly and dealing with a shoulder strain early last year, Watson began playing like the Pro Bowler and franchise-changer the Browns had hoped.

He completed 14 of 14 passes in the second half of a thrilling comeback win at Baltimore on Nov. 12 before imaging tests revealed Watson had a fractured glenoid (socket) bon e and needed surgery.

Watson's doctors and the Browns' medical staff have devised the throwing plan that Stefanski said will change for minicamp next month and training camp in July.

And while he only mimicked down-field completions as backup QBs Jameis Winston and Tyler Huntley took turns, Watson stayed engaged from the break of the huddle until the completion of each play.

"It’s something we always talk about — mental reps,” Stefanski said. “When you’re not getting a rep, whether you’re the quarterback, you’re a running back, you’re trying to get a mental rep every single time.

“There’s a progression to how all of us learn, and I think as much as we can learn in the classroom and then we can learn from being out there and taking the rep, I really think you can add another element of watching it while it’s happening live.”

Newly signed Browns running back Nyheim Hines, who has been recovering from a knee injury sustained in a jet ski accident when was with Buffalo, has been doing rehab work with Watson in Los Angeles.

He said Watson is on schedule.

“Honestly, he’s still working through his rehab but sometimes doesn’t feel like it," Hines said. “I’ve caught some passes from him, they have the zip on it.”

Hines has been around Watson enough to know how he's supposed to look at full strength.

“He’s probably one of the only people I’ve seen where every time I’ve played him he’s gotten better — him and Lamar Jackson,” Hines said. "So I’m excited to work with him finally after playing against him all these years and I’m excited to see him come back.

"I think he’s going to be really special this year and lead us to where we need to go.”

NOTES: Myles Garrett, the reigning AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is not taking part in the “voluntary” program. Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio is working out at the facility but was not on the field. WR Amari Cooper is also absent.