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Kevin Stefanski Addresses Deshaun Watson’s Struggles in Browns Debut

Editor’s note: This story contains alleged accounts of sexual assault. If you or someone you know is a survivor of sexual assault, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or at https://www.rainn.org

In Deshaun Watson’s first game since the 2020 season, the Browns quarterback had a tepid return, only completing one of five passes for seven total yards. However, Browns coach Kevin Stefanski isn’t concerned over Watson’s struggles.

“I think he probably wants some throws back,” Stefanski said, via ProFootballTalk. “Obviously, playing football for the first time in a while, I thought it was important to get out there with his teammates in this scheme, just hearing a different voice in the helmet, those type of things. I’m sure he had the butterflies and the jitters early. But I think he understands there’s work to do.”

The game was Watson’s first in Cleveland, and it came amid the NFL’s appeal of his six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after the league’s investigation into the sexual harassment and assault allegations against him. With all of the off-field issues at play, Stefanski thought Watson just needed to get out on the field and get used to playing in a game again.

“I think this was important for him to get out there in a game setting, under the lights, with new teammates and go operate,” Stefanski said. “It wasn’t going to be perfect. And even if it was perfect, you can’t overreact to that either. So I just think it was all part of the progression for him.”

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Watson was able to play on Friday because the results of the NFL’s appeal of the suspension haven’t yet been decided. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly wants Watson to be suspended at least one year for what he called “egregious” and “predatory” behavior. The Associated Press reports Watson would be willing to accept an eight-game suspension and a heavy fine.

Watson has reached a settlement with 24 of the 25 women who filed lawsuits and accused him of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. The women provided graphic details of Watson’s conduct during their appointments that led to their accusations. Those accounts range from Watson allegedly refusing to cover his genitals to the quarterback “touching [a plaintiff] with his penis and trying to force her to perform oral sex on him.”

The quarterback has denied all allegations against him, and two Texas grand juries declined to indict him on criminal charges earlier this spring.

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