Saturday's NFL: Browns backup QB Brissett moves into Watson's starting spot

Associated Press

Cleveland — Jacoby Brissett has jumped ahead of Deshaun Watson on Cleveland's depth chart. Maybe for a while.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Brissett will take the majority of snaps with Cleveland's first-team offense starting Sunday, a move necessitated by Watson's pending suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy for sexual misconduct allegations.

Cleveland Browns quarterbacks Deshaun Watson, right, and Jacoby Brissett look to pass during the NFL football team's training camp, Monday, Aug. 1, 2022, in Berea, Ohio.

Watson, who made his debut with the Browns by starting Friday's exhibition win over Jacksonville, has been the No. 1 quarterback throughout training camp.

But he's going to miss at least the first six regular-season games — and potentially more — so the Browns need to get Brissett ready for the Sept. 11 opener at Carolina.

“That has been the plan really from the beginning is just to at some point let Jacoby get the majority of them, still work Deshaun, still work Josh Dobbs and still work Josh Rosen,” Stefanski said, referring to Cleveland's four QBs during a Zoom call with reporters.

Watson's situation remains in flux.

His six-game suspension handed down by independent arbiter Sue L. Robinson was appealed by the NFL and is being decided by Peter C. Harvey, a former New Jersey Attorney General appointed by Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Harvey's ruling could come at any time and there's still the possibility Watson and the league could agree to a settlement.

On Thursday, a person familiar with Watson's defense told the AP the three-time Pro Bowler would accept an eight-game suspension and $5 million fine. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.

Before Friday's game, Watson's first in nearly 600 days, he apologized for the first time since two dozen women filed lawsuits against him alleging sexual harassment and assault during massage therapy sessions while he played for Houston.

“I’m truly sorry to all of the women that I have impacted,” Watson said.

In her ruling, Robinson noted Watson's lack of remorse played a factor in her decision to suspend him.

Stefanski said the apology was a good step for Watson.

“I just think Deshaun has been very committed to being the best version of himself,” Stefanski said. “That is off the field and that is on the field, obviously when he is in this building, but more so I do think he wants to learn and grow as a person. That is important.”

In the meantime, the Browns need to get ready for the season.

Brissett was signed in March by the Browns, who viewed him as a perfect plug-in while Watson is sidelined. The 29-year-old Brissett has made 37 career starts and been thrown into unique situations, including in 2019 when he became Indianapolis' starter following Andrew Luck's stunning retirement.

The Browns didn't play Brissett against the Jaguars to avoid the risk of an injury and to get Watson back into the flow of a game. Now, it's time for Brissett to get more time with Cleveland's starters.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) congratulates running back Jerome Ford (34) after he scored a touchdown against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Stefanski has been pleased with the team's plan to this point.

“Jacoby has gotten a lot of reps to date. I go back to the nine-week offseason program and the weeks we have been together, he has gotten a ton of reps with the ones and with the twos,” he said. "Even the way we structure our routes versus air and individual period, he has gotten a lot of reps with the quote-unquote ones and the twos.

"He will keep on that same process and making sure he is running the show when he is in there. He does a nice job in the quarterback meeting room with those guys, so I just think this is also the natural progression for him moving forward.”

The Browns will practice twice this week against the Philadelphia Eagles before hosting them next Sunday in their first home exhibition.

Jets' Wilson out 2-4 weeks with knee injury

New York — Zach Wilson and the New York Jets appear to have avoided a preseason nightmare.

Wilson is expected to miss two to four weeks with a bone bruise and meniscus tear in his right knee, according to a person with knowledge of the injury. The person told The Associated Press the timeline for how long Wilson is sidelined will be determined by an arthroscopic procedure to repair the meniscus — the schedule for which is pending a second medical opinion.

New York Jets' Zach Wilson is taken off the field after an injury during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Philadelphia.

It was initially feared that Wilson suffered a serious — and potentially season-ending — knee injury during the second offensive series of New York's 24-21 preseason-opening win at Philadelphia on Friday night.

Tests after the game indicated the ACL was intact, and an MRI on Saturday morning revealed the exact nature of the injury. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced details.

The New York Post first reported Wilson was diagnosed with a bone bruise and meniscus tear that needs to be trimmed and not fully repaired. While Wilson and the Jets remain optimistic, they won't know the full scope of the injury — and whether recovery could go beyond two to four weeks — until doctors operate on the quarterback's knee.

There's still a chance Wilson could be ready to play in the season opener against Baltimore on Sept. 11. If not, veteran Joe Flacco would likely start in Wilson's place against his former team.

After going back to pass with 4:29 left in the first quarter, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled to his right for 7 yards, but went down when he tried to juke past Philadelphia's Nakobe Dean. He appeared to injure his knee when planting to cut on Philadelphia’s grass field.

Wilson was down for several minutes as doctors and trainers checked on him. He walked gingerly to the sideline and then to the locker room.

“He’s in good spirits," coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson after the game. "He’s fine, a little frustrated, obviously, but he’s as good as you can be in this situation.”

And he probably feels quite a bit better knowing his season isn't already over before it even started.

Wilson's progress in his second NFL season is the primary focus this year for the Jets, who took the former BYU star with the No. 2 overall pick last year. Wilson had a down-and-up season that began with struggles and then a sprained PCL in the back of the same right knee, sidelining him for four games. But he came back and was solid down the stretch, not throwing an interception in any of his final five games.

Wilson finished his rookie year with nine touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. The Jets added several playmaking pieces around their young quarterback during the offseason — including wide receiver Garrett Wilson, tight ends C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin, running back Breece Hall — and he's had a solid training camp this summer.

Browns' Harris 'likely' needs season-ending knee surgery

Cleveland — Cleveland Browns starting center Nick Harris will likely need season-ending surgery on his right knee that was injured on the second play of the exhibition opener against Jacksonville on Friday night.

Coach Kevin Stefanski didn't provide any details on Harris' injury or test results. He said surgery was “likely” but that the team is continuing to gather information before finalizing plans.

“All of these injuries stink," Stefanski said Saturday on a Zoom call with reporters. "You don’t want anybody to get injured and Nick is certainly a guy who has worked so hard this offseason, so we’re really hoping that it’s not a season-long thing because the kid has worked so hard.”

Harris was dropping back into pass coverage when his right knee appeared to buckle while blocking a Jaguars defender. He laid face down for several seconds before being checked by medical personnel and carted off.

Cleveland Browns personnel check on Cleveland Browns center Nick Harris (53) after he was injured during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Jacksonville, Fla.

Ethan Pocic, who signed as a free agent in the offseason after five seasons with Seattle, replaced Harris.

“Ethan went in there and did a really nice job,” Stefanski said. "He’s been with us since April. We went out and got him for a reason and we’re excited about what he did last night.”

A fifth-round pick in 2020, Harris has been taking all the snaps with Cleveland's first-team offense in training camp and was on his way to replacing veteran JC Tretter, who was waived during the offseason and remains a free agent.

Tretter was reliable for the Browns, starting 80 games in five seasons. He also has been the NFL Players Association president for the past two years, and was voted to a second-term before being released by Cleveland.

Stefanski declined to address any renewed interest in Tretter, instead reiterating how well Pocic played.

Harris' injury was the second significant one for the Browns this week. Return specialist Jakeem Grant Sr. tore his left Achilles tendon in practice Tuesday and will miss the season. A Pro Bowler with Chicago last season, Grant signed a three-year contract worth up to $13.8 million to help fix Cleveland's shaky return game.