Cleveland Browns plan to start Deshaun Watson in preseason opener in Jacksonville

BEREA, Ohio – The Cleveland Browns are planning on starting Deshaun Watson for Friday's preseason opener in Jacksonville. However, that might hinge on whether a decision is made in the NFL's appeal of his six-game suspension for personal conduct policy violations.

Coach Kevin Stefanski acknowledged before Tuesday's training camp practice that he had a plan for how to utilize the quarterbacks in the game. However, at the time, he wasn't prepared to make the announcement until he had a chance to speak to the team first.

The Browns went through a closed practice early Wednesday afternoon before departing for Florida. Stefanski had planned on going a day early to the preseason opener in order to set aside time for "team-bonding" activities.

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.
Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson during training camp at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus.

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'RIGHT THING TO DO': Roger Goodell explains why NFL appealed Deshaun Watson suspension

Looming over the trip, though, is the ruling from Peter C. Harvey, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's designee to hear the league's appeal of Watson's suspension handed down by disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson. Harvey could issue a decision at any time, which could create an even longer suspension for the Browns quarterback.

Goodell, speaking in Minneapolis on Tuesday, made it clear the league is seeking a full-year suspension. If that were to occur, Watson would be banned from all team activities, it is believed starting immediately after the suspension goes into effect.

"Because we’ve seen the evidence," Goodell said Tuesday of why the league believes a full-year suspension is necessary. "[Disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson] was very clear about the evidence. She reinforced the evidence, that there was multiple violations here and they were egregious, and that it was predatory behavior. Those were always things we felt was really important for us to address and in a way that’s responsible."

A full-year suspension upon appeal would mean Watson's couldn't play in Jacksonville. If Harvey stops short of a full-year ban, then he would be able to still play, as he has been able to since Robinson's ruling on Aug. 1.

Watson starting Friday is part of a wider plan by Stefanski to play most of his starters early on in the game. There's expected to be a few who won't be in the lineup, but a large percentage will play against the Jaguars.

If Watson is unable to play due to a full-year suspension being handed down, Jacoby Brissett would start.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Deshaun Watson scheduled to start preseason opener for Browns