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Browns GM Andrew Berry: Deshaun Watson (right shoulder) not viewed as 'long-term injury'

The Browns haven't exactly produced the most satisfactory explanation for what happened with Deshaun Watson in Week 4 when he missed the Browns' 28-3 loss to the Ravens due to a shoulder injury.

Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry attempted to provide one on Wednesday.

"We were optimistic that he would play. He was optimistic that he would play," Berry told reporters. "He worked his tail off during the week to rehab and be ready to go. When we got out on Sunday and when we took him through the pregame workout, it became obvious to all of us that he couldn't throw or drive the ball well enough to perform in the game.

"It just wasn't at a level where we felt comfortable that he could ultimately perform the duties of his position."

At 2-2 entering their bye week, the Browns know their record could be better. They also are aware that the most important position in the sport needs to be better prepared for unexpected circumstances. Watson's inability to perform wasn't a shocking development. He was limited in practice and threw just one pass in Friday's session.

But for all intents and purposes, it sounded as if he'd have no issue with playing in Week 4. Watson even told one veteran beat writer he believed he'd be fine by Sunday.

Then, when Sunday came, Watson couldn't go, leaving the responsibility to rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson in what effectively became football's version of a spot start. Thompson-Robinson looked very much like the rookie he is, failing to keep the Browns' offense -- which also is without Nick Chubb and right tackle Jack Conklin, two pieces who would have helped Thompson-Robinson -- afloat.

Perhaps most concerning was the apparent lack of change to a game plan that might have suited Thompson-Robinson better than Watson. They're not vastly different quarterbacks, but it's also not the wisest decision to expect a rookie quarterback to drop back and survey the field nearly 40 times in his first start. Thompson-Robinson predictably struggled, tossing three interceptions.

Such a development will undoubtedly elicit questions regarding Watson's toughness. In fact, it even had some in Cleveland referencing former quarterback Baker Mayfield, who played the 2021 season while nursing multiple injuries, to the detriment of his performance and his future with the team.

As Berry explained it, Watson didn't play because of his position, not his toughness.

"If he was a running back or a defensive tackle or something along those lines, it's something that wouldn't have necessarily affected his job requirements and he would've been OK," Berry said on Wednesday. "But this is your quarterback. His job is to throw the ball anywhere from 30 to 35 times a game, and if he can't push it, if he can't drive it, if he can't throw it down the field, which became very evident early in the workout, it became a very easy decision for us not to put him out there."

Would a less-than-100-percent Watson have been better than Thompson-Robinson? The world may never know. Cleveland is hoping it doesn't have to find out anytime soon.

"We don't view it as a long-term injury," Berry said. "I think Kevin mentioned earlier in the week, there's nothing structural. We are optimistic that it'll heal in the short and he'll be ready to go."

Cleveland ranks right up there with the most emotionally volatile NFL cities, and their Week 4 no-show of a performance -- summed up by a still image of Watson, standing on the sideline in street clothes, shielding his eyes with a play card -- will make the Week 5 bye feel agonizingly long. But it is just one game, and the extra week to heal could make all the difference for a quarterback who has only put together one quality game as the Browns' starter in 2023.

Optimism reigns, even at 2-2.

"We're really looking forward to using this bye week to really return to the level of consistency and the standard that Kevin has really set there on that side of the ball since he's been here in 2020," Berry said. "No doubt with having Deshaun for a full season, losing Nick, losing Jack Conklin that it'll look different than we've been accustomed to seeing over the first three years. But we have no doubt that not only we'll be able to meet but exceed the standard that we've seen the first three years that Kevin has been the head coach here."

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