INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson made his first start in nearly a month Sunday at Indianapolis then left after taking a big hit in the first quarter and did not return.
He went to the medical tent twice and was cleared to return after going through the concussion protocol.
But coach Kevin Stefanski opted not to put his $230 million franchise quarterback in jeopardy of additional injury and backup P.J. Walker led the Browns to a second straight come-from-behind win.
It didn’t take Stefanski long to clarify his plans for Watson next week.
“He’s our starter moving forward, he’s our starter in Seattle,” Stefanski said after a thrilling 39-38 victory at Indianapolis. “I just, it’s always going to be my decision to protect our players.”
Watson hadn’t played since suffering a strained rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder Sept. 24 and only returned to practice this week after last working out with his teammates Sept. 29.
In his brief stint Sunday, Watson didn’t look like his usual self. He was 1 of 5 with 5 yards and one interception before leaving and his final pass was initially ruled an interception before being overturned on a replay review.
On that play, Watson was scrambling toward the Colts sideline when he tried to throw the ball against his body. As he leapt into the air, Colts defensive end Dayo Odeyingo hit Watson in the chest, driving him into the ground as the back of Watson’s head bounced off the turf.
Watson stayed on the ground for several minutes before finally getting up and walking to the sideline and the blue medical tent. He was replaced on the next series by Walker and then entered the tent a second time between the first and second quarters.
Watson was making just his fourth appearance of the season after missing two games and the bye week because of the right shoulder injury.