Deshaun Watson makes his regular-season debut for the Cleveland Browns.
NFL Sunday primer: Deshaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers take the field
Aaron Rodgers isn’t quite ready to surrender the starting job for the Green Bay Packers.
Those two prominent quarterbacks will be under intense scrutiny on the Sunday of Week 13 of the NFL season.
Watson plays his first game for the Browns since serving his 11-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, based on allegations of sexual misconduct made in civil lawsuits filed by more than two dozen women. He will face his former team, the Texans, in Houston. He last played an NFL regular-season game on Jan. 3, 2021 for the Texans. He did play in one preseason game for the Browns in August.
Women’s groups remained sharply critical last week of Watson and his punishment. About 10 of Watson’s accusers are expected to attend the game at NRG Stadium with their attorney, Anthony Buzbee. When Watson spoke to reporters Thursday at the Browns’ training facility in Berea, Ohio, he declined to answer questions about the allegations against him or the treatment he underwent under the terms of his suspension.
“I respect your question,” Watson said. “I understand. But that’s more in that phase of clinical and legal stuff. And I’ve been advised to stay away from that and keep that personal.”
Watson was a three-time Pro Bowl selection in four seasons with the Texans. He led the league in passing yards in the 2020 season. The Browns signed him to a five-year contract worth a guaranteed $230 million when they traded for him in March. They went 4-7 in the 11 games that he missed.
Rodgers is back in the Packers’ lineup for Sunday’s game in Chicago, two days after his 39th birthday. He exited last Sunday night’s loss in Philadelphia after suffering a rib injury. He already had been playing with a broken thumb. But Rodgers said Tuesday he’d received favorable news from the tests he underwent Monday on his ribs and intended to play in this game. That keeps third-year backup Jordan Love on the bench, at least for now.
That may not remain the case all season, however, with the Packers struggling. They have a record of 4-8 and have lost seven of their past eight games. They surrendered 363 rushing yards to the Eagles. Rodgers said he would like to play as long as the Packers are mathematically in the running for a playoff spot. If they are officially eliminated, Rodgers said, he would be open to discussions about other possibilities, presumably including the prospect of ending his season early. That would give the Packers an extended look at Love, the 2020 first-round draft choice who excelled in his relief appearance in Philadelphia.