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OTAs & Minicamp

Deshaun Watson discusses progression of shoulder recovery and outlook on his return

Watson threw during 7-on-7 drills in first day of minicamp

Watson Day 1 minicamp

As QB Deshaun Watson lined up with the offense and called the play in the 7-on-7 drill, he found WR Cedric Tillman open on his route for a pass. In other reps of the drill, he sought out his other pass catchers in WR Elijah Moore for a pass in traffic and TE David Njoku on a short pass in the middle of the field.

Watson continues to take steps forward in his recovery process from the shoulder injury that he sustained during the 2023 season. His participation in the live reps of 7-on-7 drills during the first day of mandatory minicamp was another step from his level of participation during OTAs. Watson said he has followed each step of the protocol and the throwing program through OTAs and into minicamp.

"Everything's been going pretty smooth," he said. "Taking it one day at a time, not trying to get ahead of myself. And I think I'm in the right position and I feel very comfortable."

After this week of mandatory minicamp ends, the Browns have a portion of time off before they return to CrossCountry Mortgage Campus for training camp in July. Watson said his doctors Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. James Voos and Browns Senior Vice President of Player Health and Development Joe Sheehan are developing the next step of his program for that portion of time. Watson said there are different checkpoints and a phase of the program he must hit in his recovery process, and they will evaluate how he comes out of minicamp.

Check out the action from practice at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus as the Browns go through Veteran Minicamp

For now, they are approaching each day of minicamp individually. During OTAs, Watson was on a schedule of throwing every other day. A similar plan is in place for minicamp, as head coach Kevin Stefanski said he expects Watson to take Wednesday's practice off from live reps and return to throwing on Thursday – the final day of minicamp.

"The natural next step is throwing out there against the defense in 7-on-7," Stefanski said. "Then you'll graduate to the team, and we can do team drills and those type of things. I thought he looked good, made good decisions. Again, you get mental reps when you're back there and then it's a little bit different when you're taking the snap from the center or in the shotgun or under center regardless. But I thought he did a nice job."

Stefanski said one of the next steps for Watson is to throw during team drills, which will take place in training camp. However, they will continue to ramp Watson up through meetings and in the 7-on-7 drills during the three days of minicamp before they head into training camp.

"I think all of it's a process and I think he's doing a nice job," Stefanski said. "We cover a lot of ground in the meeting rooms. These guys will tell you they spend a lot of time together in the meeting room. So, he's working very hard in there. Obviously, he's done everything in his power from a rehab standpoint, and he's doing everything that he's allowed to do. When the doctors and trainers tell us we can progress, we progress. And so, he's been a good patient in that regard. But he continues to make strides both in the building, in the weight room and out here on the grass."

Even when Watson hasn't been taking the live reps, he's been taking the mental reps of the drills. Watson said those mental reps provide him a different perspective on what he sees in the live rep. He can observe the backside coverage or notice what defenders are doing and can take note of the different coverages and routes.

While it doesn't completely replace the physical reps, but Watson knows the importance of taking the mental reps to stay prepared.

It also plays an important factor as Watson grows accustomed to the new look of their offense under offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey. There are different elements, like the use of choice routes and relying on Watson's mobility, that Watson believes will provide opportunities for both skill players and the quarterback in the system. He knows he must make good decisions to put the ball in the receiver's hands.

As Watson has built a relationship with Dorsey since his arrival in Cleveland, he's seen how Dorsey uses his knowledge and experience of playing quarterback, as well as coaching other star quarterbacks, to his advantage.

"I think that he's doing a heck of a job of putting the offense together with Kevin (Stefanski) and all the other staff members, doing stuff that we love to do and that we're comfortable doing," Watson said. "He's the knowledge of the game, and he wants to win. He wants to score a lot of points and compete. He has that chip on his shoulder just like all of us, and I think that's the beauty of it."

As he continues the recovery process, Watson said his shoulder is feeling well. He's worked through any mental hurdles with missing time on the field and working back from an injury. But he hasn't been discouraged during his rehab process.

"It just starts with yourself," Watson said. "I'm a self-confident person. I know the work that I put in. I know the doctors and everybody that's been working with me, and that's where it starts. When you get on the field, you just got to go out there and do it and participate a little bit and see what you can do right now, at this moment. I'm only six and a half months out. Game one is not until another two and a half (months), 90 something days. So, I'm in a very comfortable spot and like I said before, just taking it one day at a time and just keep going."

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