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Stefanski expects Watson to bounce back from shoulder injury

Nick Cammett / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The start of the Deshaun Watson era in Cleveland hasn't gone to plan, with the Browns quarterback struggling to return to Pro Bowl form before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury last season.

But head coach Kevin Stefanski expressed confidence that Watson can bounce back in 2024.

"We always talk about (how) we want the best version of ourselves. I want the best version of Deshaun," Stefanski said on "The Rich Eisen Show" on Friday. "He is constantly getting better. I see so many of these veterans ... every single year, you challenge them to get better. Even the guys you feel like are at the height of their craft - look at Myles Garrett, coming off that Defensive Player of the Year (award). He will be challenged both by us, and I know he does this to himself. He needs to get better. There are things he can do better.

"I know Deshaun is in the same boat. He wants to be better, he wants to play better, every single game, every single year. … I'm excited for where he is right this minute with plenty of work to do. I know he's going to continue to get better and get healthy, but I'm excited about Deshaun."

Stefanski pointed to Watson's performance during a road comeback win against the Baltimore Ravens - the game he sustained the displaced fracture to the glenoid of his throwing arm - as proof the signal-caller is still a game-changing talent.

The 28-year-old also missed time earlier in the year with a different shoulder injury sustained in Week 3 and ultimately played in just six games in 2023.

It was the second straight year that Watson - who signed a fully guaranteed five-year, $230-million contract following a trade from the Houston Texans - made only six appearances after he served an 11-game ban for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy in 2022.

Watson led the NFL in passing in 2020 with 4,823 yards while throwing for 33 touchdowns and seven interceptions. But his production has severely regressed in Cleveland, completing just 59.8% of his passes for 2,217 yards and 14 scores against nine picks in 12 games.

Cleveland made the playoffs as a wild-card team despite losing Watson, with veteran Joe Flacco stepping in and earning the Comeback Player of the Year award for his efforts.

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