Berea, Ohio (AFP) – Deshaun Watson got off to a light round of cheers on Saturday at the first open training for the Cleveland Browns at boot camp.
The muted reaction markedly reflected the uncertainty surrounding Cleveland’s controversial new midsection.
Watson was the focal point as the Browns worked in front of a near-capacity crowd at their suburban headquarters. He waved briefly while running to the middle of the training grounds, but did not speak to the media.
The 26-year-old midfielder is awaiting a decision from retired judge Sue L. Robinson. It determines whether Watson violated the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy after being accused of sexual misconduct by 24 massage therapists. A lengthy comment is possible.
“I can’t wait for us to play together, any week we see,” said David Njoku, a tight end for Cleveland. “Hopefully sooner rather than later. I’m excited. I can’t wait.
“But it is not difficult, we just have to take each day as it is. Whoever we have, we have to do our best and keep working.”
Watson, a three-time Pro Bowl pick, signed a five-year, $230 million contract with the Browns after acquiring them from Houston in exchange for three first-round picks in March. He was a Texas member during all of the alleged incidents.
Two separate Texas juries refused to indict Watson in any of the criminal complaints. He settled 20 of the 24 civil lawsuits against him, and the lawyer representing the women said he hopes to try the other four next spring.
There was no booing directed at Watson in training, but All-Pro defensive end Miles Jarrett and outstanding Nick Chapple appearance on the field were greeted with a much louder and long standing standing ovation.
“You can tell from the turnout that people want to do their best for Brown, but I think the fans are being cautious,” said Hans Schneider, season ticket holder and mayor of Wellington, Ohio. “Once the decision is made with Deshaun, there will be clarity.
“I am very respectful to both parties, but no matter the decision, some people will be happy and some will be unhappy about it.”
Watson interacted with several dozen young fans after an 80-minute practice, patiently signing autographs and taking pictures on the sidelines. He also offered his cleats as prizes for playing rock, paper and scissors games.
The lucky winners were 10-year-old Tanner Hall and 9-year-old Barrett Radell, wearing Chubb and Jarrett shirts. Only a handful of adults placed fourth for Watson, but former Brown’s sixth quarterback Baker Mayfield was well represented.
“I’m going to keep this in my room with me,” Radel said beaming as he held up Watson’s signed shoes.
Fan interaction sparked warm memories of Safety Grant Delpit, Cleveland’s second-round pick in 2020. The New Orleans native attended Saints training as a teenager and received a signed football from his grandmother.
“I remember going to Saints Training Camp and it was the coolest thing ever,” Delbit said. “It’s great to see it complete. I’m excited.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions in the past two summers, Brown has limited access to the camp for the public. Delpit is keen to make up for lost time.
“I’ve never really been here with (full access) to fans before, so we’re going to have some fun, man,” Delpit said. “I’m going to meet some kids and set aside some kids’ day. We’re going to try to make some people’s day out here.”
Notes: Players will have their first day off on the Sunday after starting camp with four less intense workouts. “Don’t worry, there will be a lot of dog days in training camp where the guys won’t like me very much,” Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. …
Garrett’s chiseled 6-foot-4, 272-pound physique remains a popular topic with his teammates. “I don’t know what else could change, and it couldn’t get much bigger than that,” Delbitt said. “It’s not lacking. It’s the same Jurassic Miles.” …
Rookie WR Isiah Weston (knee) was moved off the field, joining Anthony Schwartz (left knee strain) and rookie David Bell (foot) with camp injuries in the situation.
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