With the NFL trade deadline behind him, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry met with media members on Wednesday to discuss the current state of the 3-5 Browns.
Atop the list of newsworthy items: No matter how well Jacoby Brissett has performed to this point, Deshaun Watson will take over as starting quarterback when his suspension ends in December. Berry confirmed Cleveland's intentions Wednesday, the first time the organization has committed to playing Watson when he's eligible to return on Dec. 4 for a Week 13 game against the Texans.
Per the conditions of his 11-game suspension for violating the league's personal-conduct policy, Watson has been back at the team facility during the week since Oct. 10, with limitations. He still is not allowed to attend Browns games, nor is he able to join the team in practice.
"It's been great to have him back in the building," Berry said of Watson. "He's been focused on working on himself, he's stayed in great shape, he's been a part of the meetings. He's done everything and more that's been asked of him. We'll be excited to have him when he can continue to ramp up football activities and get back on the practice field."
Watson is permitted to return to the practice field on Nov. 14 with the plan of Watson being game ready when the Browns travel to Houston in Week 13. Until then, the Browns will continue with the status quo of Brissett operating as the team's starter.
Brissett has done an admirable job to this point, completing 63.9 percent of his passes for 1,862 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Brissett has kept the Browns competitive in nearly every game, and in Monday night's win over the Bengals, he connected with Amari Cooper on three key completions that helped the Browns preserve their double-digit advantage.
"Jacoby has been everything that we had hoped when we signed him," Berry said. "He has given us an opportunity and more to win the game with every start, save the exception of maybe one. We knew that he was a special guy in the locker room particularly from his time in Indianapolis. ... He's been an excellent addition to our organization and we couldn't be happier with what he's provided the team so far."
Brissett's performance has met, if not exceeded Cleveland's expectations. Still, the Browns will be ready to turn to their long-term starter when Watson is eligible to return.
Another part of Cleveland's offense, Kareem Hunt, was once an important figure and has since drifted into the background. His 15-touch, 72-yard showing on Monday night helped the Browns defeat the Bengals, but it seemed as if it was a farewell performance before the trade deadline passed.
Hunt spoke on the matter after the game, telling reporters on Monday he was "down for whatever" regarding his chances of being dealt elsewhere. The deadline passed without a trade involving Hunt, though, and he'll spend the rest of the 2022 season with his hometown Browns.
The club remains happy to have him, even if he isn't long for Cleveland.
"We feel really good about the team that we have, feel really good about the guys in the locker room," Berry said. "To Kareem specifically, I would actually give Kareem a lot of credit because I think that for an individual going through what he went through the past couple of months, realizing that his status was in some level of flux, all Kareem did since August was worked hard and really put the team first. I think that type of mindset, that type of attitude is exactly what allows you to battle through difficult challenges, difficult circumstances and ultimately what you need to win games as you go from week to week in the second half of the year."
Hunt said Monday night that he had not spoken with the front office about his status, and he didn't receive any news on Tuesday. Ultimately, though, Hunt said he'll continue to work no matter the situation, which Berry said Wednesday the Browns very much appreciate.
"We always have open dialogue with our guys. None of that necessarily happens in a vacuum, just to be clear, but Kareem's been excellent every day he's been in the building since August," Berry said. "I think you all know how passionate he is and how much he cares about this team and how much he cares about this city. We think -- we know he's going to have a really strong second half and are looking forward to helping us continue to win games like he did on Monday night."