deshaun watson throws pass practice he prepares debut cleveland browns quarterback serving

Browns’ Watson ‘focuses on football’ in exchange for NFL ban

Deshaun Watson says he is “convinced about being the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns” as he prepares to lead the team to Houston on Sunday in his return from an 11-game NFL ban.

Watson was suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massage sessions.

Watson missed the entire 2021 season amid charges while with the Houston Texans. He faced no criminal charges and landed a five-year, $230 million deal with the Browns.

His long-awaited debut will come against his former team in Texas, where attorney Tony Buzbee said this week that about 10 of Watson’s accusers he represented planned to attend the game.

“They thought it was important to make it clear that they are still here and that they matter,” Buzbee said.

“I’m not worried about the atmosphere,” Watson said in his pre-game press conference on Thursday.

Watson denied wrongdoing and Thursday deflected questions about the allegations, his suspension and the counseling the NFL mandated he receive.

“There are only football questions I can address right now,” he said. “I am focusing on football.

“Right now, I can’t deal with any of these things. Who knows what the future holds? Right now, I’m determined to be the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.”

Watson threw his first pitches as the Browns’ starting quarterback Wednesday in practice.

He takes control of a Browns team that is 4-7, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals – both at 7-4 – in the AFC North division.

Jacoby Brissett led the Browns to a dramatic 23-17 comeback victory over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but the Browns are hoping Watson’s arrival will broaden their offensive horizons and resurrect their playoff hopes.

“He’s special,” running back Nick Chubb said. “He is a playmaker. He puts the ball exactly where it needs to go. Guys like that. The boys are thrilled. We are all. We are ready.”

Elsewhere, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers planned to lead the Packers against the Chicago Bears despite being forced out on the team to go down 40-33 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday with a rib injury.

The four-time and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player said after the game he went to the locker room to get checked out due to severe pain and breathing problems that led him to fear a punctured lung.

But Rogers, who was already playing with a broken thumb, said Wednesday that he was “feeling better than I thought I was feeling… definitely encouraged by the last couple of days.”

Rodgers expects to deal with pain on Sunday, but “nothing he can’t deal with.”

Eagles flying high

Ed is eager to try and rack up a few more wins, even though the 4-8 Packers’ playoff hopes are all but dead, and he’s not yet thinking of stepping aside for young backup and heir apparent Jordan Love.

“Pride, for example. The love of the game,” Rodgers said of the soldier. “I love to compete and I want to be out there with my boys.”

The 10-1 Philadelphia Eagles could clinch a playoff berth on Sunday, but they would need a lot of help to secure a postseason berth this early along with a win over the Tennessee Titans.

Dynamic Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts amassed 310 total yards, including 157 rushing yards, in last week’s win over Green Bay.

Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel, whose Titans outscore the AFC South, is the latest to figure out how to stop — or at least slow down — Hurts.

“He’s going to be tough to defend,” added of the QB who accounted for 25 touchdowns — 17 passing and eight rushing — this season.