Deshaun Watson will be on the sidelines during the Cleveland Browns game against the undefeated San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. Watson injured his shoulder on a running play during a win over the Titans in Week 3.
The Browns officially ruled the quarterback out for this weekend’s game due to a bruised rotator cuff. September 22 marked the most recent date that Watson was able to practice fully.
He has since practiced on a limited basis, but he was expected play in Week 4 against the Ravens. Watson was medically cleared before kickoff, but he experienced some throwing issues during a pregame workout. He ultimately sat out for the game against Baltimore.
Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson stepped in for Watson but largely struggled. The fifth round draft pick finished the game with 121 passing yards and three inceptions in the loss to the Ravens.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski initially said it was Watson’s decision not to play in Week 4, but general manager Andrew Berry later clarified that the decision was made mutually by the quarterback and the team.
Because of the mixed messaging, Watson has been criticized in some circles for not playing with what seems like a minor injury.
Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt, though, said it’s unfair to judge Watson without knowing the extent of his injury.
“I would never, ever, ever doubt his toughness,” Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt said. “I’ve seen him play. I’ve seen him do some amazing things, fight through things. That is not the issue at all whatsoever. If I’m a running back, and I can’t run full speed, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it.”
The Browns had a bye-week in Week 5, and the team likely hoped the extra time would allow Watson to make his way back to the football field for the matchup against the Niners. The three-time Pro Bowler has thrown for 678 yards with four touchdowns, against two interceptions.
Watson’s on-field performance has largely been disappointment since he signed an unprecedented five-year, fully guaranteed $230 million contract. Cleveland has failed to score more than 27 points with Watson under center, and has scored 14 or fewer points in four of the quarterback’s nine games.
The Browns elevated former Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker from the practice squad. Thompson-Robinson will back up Walker in Sunday’s game.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.