INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson made his first start in nearly a month Sunday.
He spent the final three quarters in Indianapolis watching from the sideline, again, and now is scheduled to have another MRI on his injured right shoulder.
After backup quarterback P.J. Walker rallied the Browns for a 39-38 victory, coach Kevin Stefanski said he held Watson out as a precaution and expects him to start next week.
“He’s our starter moving forward, he’s our starter in Seattle,” Stefanski said. “I just, it’s always going to be my decision to protect our players.”
Watson was injured while scrambling on a third down play late in the first quarter. As he threw across his body, Colts defensive end Dayo Odeyinbgo hit Watson in the chest, sending him hard to the ground as his head bounced hard off the turf.
He remained sprawled on the ground for several minutes as the Browns medical team tended to him before walking off and entering Cleveland’s blue medical tent.
Watson said doctors initially examined his throwing shoulder and what has been described as a strained rotator cuff — an injury that kept him out of action the previous three weeks.
Between the first and second quarters, Watson said he returned to the tent to be evaluated for a concussion. Though he was cleared by the doctors, Watson did not return to the game.
“I want to compete. I’m a competitor, of course, I wanted to go back out there,” he said. “But when I step on the field, I don’t want to feel like something is holding me back.”
Stefanski thought the best move was to keep the Browns’ $230 million quarterback on the sideline while allowing Walker to direct a second straight comeback victory.
Watson hadn’t played since hurting his shoulder Sept. 24 and only returned to practice this week after last working out with his teammates Sept. 29.
In his brief stint Sunday, Watson didn’t look like his usual self. He was 1 of 5 with 5 yards and one interception before leaving and his final pass was initially ruled an interception before being overturned on a replay review.
With Watson working his way back into practice this week, Walker said he didn’t take any snaps. Still, Walker went 15 of 32 with 178 yards with one interception and managed to lead the Browns (4-2) on a 12-play, 80-yard drive in the final 2 1/2 minutes against the team he first played with in the NFL. Walker spent three seasons on the Colts practice squad.
Cleveland capped the drive with Kareem Hunt’s 1-yard TD plunge on fourth-and-goal with 15 seconds to go.
“That’s P.J., he’s a professional,” Watson said. “He’s been in the league long enough to step up if he’s called on.”
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