Browns GM Berry says 'easy decision' to sit QB Watson against Ravens with shoulder injury
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Browns general manager Andrew Berry said it was “a very easy decision” — made by several people — to sit quarterback Deshaun Watson on Sunday against Baltimore because he was unable to throw effectively.
Watson was sidelined by a bruised right shoulder and the Browns (2-2) were trounced 28-3 by the Ravens, who intercepted rookie QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson three times and sacked him four times in his NFL debut.
Berry reiterated coach Kevin Stefanski's comments earlier this week that Watson's shoulder is structurally sound and the injury is not a long-term issue. Watson is expected to be back for an Oct. 15 game against San Francisco.
During his bye week news conference Wednesday, Berry also tried to clarify what led to the decision for Watson to be one of Cleveland's inactive players.
There had been some conflicting, confusing comments about who ultimately made the call.
On Monday, Stefanski said the decision was made solely by Watson, and that he had been medically cleared by the Browns' training staff. As late as Friday, Watson was adamant he would make his 10th start since joining Cleveland.
However, Berry indicated that after seeing Watson struggle to even play catch on the field about three hours before kickoff, there was a consensus among those who were present that he couldn't perform adequately.
“We were optimistic that he would play. He was optimistic that he would play,” Berry said. “He worked his tail off during the week to rehab and be ready. When we got out on Sunday and when we took him through the pregame workout, it became obvious to all of us that he couldn’t throw or drive the ball well enough to perform in the game.
“It just wasn’t at a level where we felt comfortable that he could ultimately perform the duties of his position.”
Berry said if Watson played anywhere else on the field that the injury would have been more manageable.
“But this is your quarterback and his job is to throw the ball anywhere from 30 to 35 times a game,” he said. "If he can’t push it. If he can’t drive it. If he can’t throw it down the field, which became very evident early in the workout, it became a very easy decision for us not to put him out there.”
While there has been speculation about how Watson's choice not to play was received in Cleveland's locker room, Berry said the QB's teammates understood his reasoning.
“It was pretty obvious what he had done to try and get ready throughout the week and he really was here 24/7 doing stuff at home and it was obvious that he couldn’t throw the ball on Sunday,” he said. "He couldn’t throw the ball well enough to play.”
Berry noted that Watson has played through injuries earlier in his career, so this was not a matter of pain tolerance or toughness. This was entirely about being able to function at a level that he could be competitive.
Berry brought up Watson taking a 12-hour bus trip to Jacksonville in 2018 to play for Houston despite a punctured lung that kept him from being medically cleared to fly.
“So there’s no doubt in terms of his resolve or his toughness or his desire to be on the field with his teammates, and honestly I want guys who are wired that way,” Berry said.
"You want guys who want to be on the field with their teammates, but there also is an element where you have to be realistic in terms of, ‘Hey, can they go out there and perform at a level that would allow you to win a game?’”
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