Kevin Stefanski acknowledges ‘we have to get Deshaun (Watson) ready to play’: Quick hits

BEREA, Ohio — Kevin Stefanski admitted there’s a method to his madness for giving Deshaun Watson most of the first-team reps through the first seven days of Browns training camp.

In addition to establishing him as the leader of the team, he knows the reality of the situation: with so much uncertainty surrounding Watson’s suspension, anything is still possible, including him playing early in the season while a potential legal battle ensues.

“We’ll let that play out, but we’ve got to get Deshaun ready to play,” Stefanski said before Day 8 of Browns training camp. “He hasn’t played football in a year. We’ve got to get Jacoby (Brissett) ready to play. He’s potentially going to be playing early for us and starting and we’re going to be counting on him.

“Same thing for (Josh) Dobbs and (Josh) Rosen. Those guys have to be ready to play. So I just look at it as we’re going to use every opportunity we have out here, individual drill, post-practice, during practice, we’ve got to get all these guys ready to play.”

The NFL has appealed Watson’s six-game suspension by NFL Disciplinary Officer Sue L. Robinson, and is seeking a minimum year-long suspension, as well as an appropriate fine and treatment.

The NFLPA will respond to the appeal by the end of the day Friday, but the union is poised to sue in federal court if it does not like the outcome. If the union secures an injunction, Watson could end up on the field earlier than expected this season, possibly even in the opener in Carolina depending on what the courts say.

“I think all of these scenarios you have to be ready for,” Stefanski said. “Again, like we’ve talked about all along, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about various scenarios. Just deal with what’s in front of us.”

As for whether or not he feels confident with Brissett starting most or all of the season, he said, “I’m not going to go too far into the future and what’s coming.” I’ve tried, and I’ve asked the players to do this, so I’m going to try to do the same. I’m going to take a one-day-at-a-time approach and focus on the day and focus on what we have in front of us, which is practice. All those conversations are probably for another time.”

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Still, he hopes the fans remain excited about the 2022 season regardless of the length of Watson’s suspension.

“Like we’ve mentioned, we’re excited for this season as a team,” he said. “The guys are very excited about 2022. You mentioned the fans, we’ve definitely felt the energy from these fans. In terms of specifics past that, I don’t know it’s that time yet. But yeah, I think the guys are excited about the work they’ve put in so far and they’re certainly looking forward to competing come September.”

Stefanski hinted he might play Watson some in the preseason game next Friday night in Jacksonville.

“These preseason games will be an opportunity to play when it’s a game setting and the defense can come after you and you’re truly in a game,” he said. “I think that’ll really be more when you get closer to getting reps than say at practice.”

It’s not the first time Stefanski had to get a quarterback ready to replace a starter for most or all of the season. In 2017, as quarterback coach of the Vikings, he helped guide Case Keenum to an 11-3 record and the NFC championship game in place of an injured Sam Bradford.

“I definitely use my experiences in the past to help inform me now,” he said. “And that was also a unique situation. So I definitely lean on some of those experiences. I had other experiences. Think about when (Brett) Favre came in to the Vikings late in the process, when Sam Bradford got to the Vikings, a late trade after Teddy (Bridgewater’s) unfortunate injury.

“A lot of the coaches here that have spent a lot of time in this league have seen a bunch of different things when it comes to guys becoming available and then getting them ready to play and having an offseason to get a guy ready to play. ”

He noted that there are plenty of reps to go around for Watson, Brissett and the two Joshes, and that he’ll make the most of all of them.

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