BEREA, Ohio — Deshaun Watson’s official status for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis is questionable.
Nothing looked uncertain about Cleveland’s quarterback on Friday.
Watson fired passes with his usual velocity during his second straight practice, and he is expected to start when the Browns visit the Colts. He has missed two games with a strained right shoulder.
“He looked like Deshaun,” All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett said. “Only he knows what he’s dealing with both mentally and physically at this point. I think he’ll be able to overcome whatever hurdles that he’s facing.”
However, coach Kevin Stefanski wouldn’t fully commit to Watson starting for the first time in nearly a month after hurting the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder in a Sept. 24 win over Tennessee.
“I want to see how he responds over the next 48 hours based on that full workload that he just got,” Stefanski said. “But he looked good today.”
The Browns (3-2) can’t be blamed for being overly cautious with Watson or conservative with any pronouncements following several weeks of speculation — and some confusion — about the health of their franchise quarterback.
Watson has been out since bruising his rotator cuff on a designed running play against the Titans. The injury was initially thought to be short-term, but then Watson sat out on Oct. 1 against Baltimore after being expected to play.
Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson was thrown to the Ravens and had three interceptions in his NFL debut, a 28-3 loss.
Watson’s situation took another twist the following week when general manager Andrew Berry expressed confidence that the three-time Pro Bowler would return after the Browns’ bye week. But Watson wasn’t even ready to practice and sat out last week as backup P.J. Walker helped Cleveland upset the San Francisco 49ers.
Walker will start again if Watson can’t play this week, but all signs are pointing to him facing Indianapolis (3-3), an AFC South opponent he played six times while with Houston. Watson is 2-4 against the Colts.
On Wednesday, Watson, who is 5-4 as a starter with Cleveland, provided the first details of his injury, describing it as “microtears” in his rotator cuff and saying he wasn’t sure if he would get back to 100% this season.
Watson couldn’t provide a timetable for his return, but then was back on the field for practice on Thursday.
During the portion of that practice open to the media, he looked tentative while making even short throws and didn’t put much zip on his passes.
It was a much different Watson on Friday. Wearing a compression sleeve on his right arm and a supportive brace on his shoulder, he stepped into his throws and had more velocity while taking the bulk of first-team reps early in practice.
“He’s looking really good,” tight end David Njoku said. “So we’re excited for Sunday.”