Why Deshaun Watson is allowed to play in Browns preseason games despite NFL suspension

It will be at least a couple of weeks before Browns fans can see Deshaun Watson making his regular-season debut for the team. It could take as long as 2023, depending on the results of the NFL’s appeal of Watson’s six-game suspension. But they will get a chance to see him play in preseason.

While Watson will miss the extended NFL regular season, he’s reportedly taking snaps during preseason games, which isn’t entirely common for confirmed starters. It’s not yet clear how much playing time Watson will get.

Here’s why Watson is likely to play preseason:

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Does Deshaun Watson play preseason?

Once the 2022 NFL regular season arrives, Watson will be unplayable for at least the first six games. But he will see game actions before the campaign starts.

According to a report from Pro Football Talk, the Browns will let Watson play in the preseason, although the number of snaps and games remains unknown. Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot reported Watson traveled to Jacksonville to play in the team’s first preseason game.

On Wednesday, the Browns announced their starters against the Jaguars, naming Watson the starting QB. The team attempted to whitewash the magnitude of the announcement, with the sub-headline: “QB Deshaun Watson to start as well.”

Why Watson is able to train and play in preseason games despite being suspended, appeal

The reason he’s allowed to play during the preseason is because his suspension currently doesn’t come into effect until week 1 of the regular season. However, if the NFL issues an indefinite suspension on appeal, it’s possible Watson will be immediately suspended and ineligible to play during the preseason, Pro Football Talk reported.

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As reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, players suspended for less than a year are typically allowed to participate in all preseason activities.

However, if Watson is suspended for a full season at the end of the appeals process, it could sideline him for the remainder of the preseason if the suspension comes into effect immediately.

It makes perfect sense that the Browns would want Watson to play preseason. The last time he took the field in a competitive setting — NFL preseason or regular season — was Jan. 3, 2021, meaning it’s been more than a year and a half since he played competitive football.

The Browns have four quarterbacks in their roster. Jacoby Brissett is set to start if Watson is out. Joshua Dobbs and Josh Rosen are the backups. Brissett appeared in 11 games for the Dolphins last year and started five. Dobbs has only played six games in his NFL career, attempting 12 passes in 2018 and five in 2020. Rosen appeared in four games in 2021 for the Falcons, which was his fifth stop in the NFL after the Cardinals (2018), Dolphins (2019), Buccaneers (2020), and 49ers (2020).

MORE: Everything you need to know about Watson’s suspension

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Watson decided before the start of the 2021 season to sit out the entire season. He did not play for the Texans in the preseason or regular season.

The Browns begin their pre-season training August 12 with the Jaguars. Cleveland will then host the Eagles on August 21 and the Bears on August 27.

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