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Browns QB Watson still not practicing; status for Sunday's game unclear

Deshaun Watson Browns Deshaun Watson - The Canadian Press

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — As they wait for Deshaun Watson's shoulder injury to improve, the Browns did some juggling with their healthy quarterbacks.

Watson didn't practice again Wednesday with a bruised right shoulder, leaving his status in question for Sunday's game against the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski again declined to provide many details about the injury that happened on a running play in a Sept. 24 win over Tennessee.

Although he had been medically cleared to play the following week, Watson sat out against Baltimore — a decision that led to theories about who ultimately made that call, along with the severity of the QB's ailment.

While so much remains unanswered, Stefanski did reveal that veteran quarterback P.J. Walker — currently on the practice squad — has moved ahead of rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson as Watson's backup.

If Watson doesn't play against the 49ers (5-0), Walker will start for the Browns (2-2) over Thompson, who had a rough NFL debut against the Ravens on Oct. 1.

“Just felt like it was the right decision for the team," Stefanski said. "P.J.’s been here now for a month plus, getting a better understanding of what we do.”

As for Watson, he missed his second practice this week with a bruised rotator cuff. The Browns repeatedly have said his shoulder is structurally intact. The 28-year-old had been expected to return this week following the team's bye.

However, he's still not able to throw with enough velocity and Stefanski said the team will wait as long as it needs.

“I don’t care if it’s ankle, knee, shoulder, you have to be able to do your job and you have to be able to function and be able to do all the things that are asked of you to play your position,” Stefanski said. "So that’s really what it is. Making sure that he continues to rehab and get to a place where he’s able to do his job at a high level.”

Watson normally meets with reporters on Wednesday during game weeks, but he was not available for interviews before practice. He was in the locker room for a few minutes and briefly chatted with a member of the team's media relations staff before grabbing items from his cubicle and leaving.

Stefanski was asked if Watson's playing status could be undecided again up until game time.

“We’ll see how the week goes,” he said. "I’m really focusing on today.”

The Browns are trying to avoid a repeat of two weeks ago. Although Watson was limited in practice leading up to the matchup against the Ravens, the team anticipated he would start against its division rival.

But when Watson got to the stadium, he couldn't throw a pass more than a few yards and the Browns turned to Thompson-Robinson, a fifth-round pick from UCLA with 48 career college starts.

Thompson-Robinson threw three interceptions and got sacked four times, and his performance renewed questions about why the Browns traded proven backup Joshua Dobbins to Arizona.

Thompson-Robinson has never made any excuses, and feels his second outing — whenever it comes — will go better.

“Would I like to have had more (time)? Yes, but that’s an excuse. I think just learning how to manage the game better, it’s a different type of game in the NFL than it is from college. With that being my first experience, I definitely have a lot to learn from and took a lot of key things away from that game.

Walker's NFL experience should give the Browns more confidence going against the 49ers, who are coming off a 42-10 thrashing of Dallas.

The 28-year-old went 4-3 in seven starts with Carolina over the past three years.

“With a veteran, he’s played in some games. He’s won some games,” he said. “Obviously, P.J, is not 40, but he’s played in some games. He’s been around a little bit. He’s played in different systems. So he’s getting comfortable with what we do here.”

NOTES: Starting C Ethan Pocic (chest, knee) returned to practice on a limited basis after being hurt against Baltimore. ... LG Joel Bitonio (knee), All-Pro DE Myles Garrett (foot) and TE David Njoku (face, hand) all sat out. Stefanski said Bitonio is day to day. Garrett's rest is precautionary. Njoku was burned in a firepit accident Sept. 29 but played two days later. "It’s a serious injury,” Stefanski said. “He’s working through it. He’s not ready yet to participate in practice. We’ll see how this goes over the next couple of days.”