BEREA, Ohio — Deshaun Watson, fresh off the HBO interviews with his accusers and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell revealing Tuesday that the league is close to wrapping up its investigation into him, put his head down Wednesday and did what he does best: play football.
On Day 2 of Organized Team Activities — the only one open to the media this week — Watson put on a show, delivering tight spirals, accurate deep balls to Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones and David Bell while displaying an athleticism and elite ability not seen in a Browns uniform in the new era.
Superstar talent just hits differently, and it was that way on the practice field on Wednesday. The agility, arm talent, vision and decision-making were all the hallmarks of a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback.
“He’s been great,’’ running back Nick Chubb said. “The throws he makes are incredible. He’s definitely a special player. I can’t wait to work with him. He can create big plays. He’s a playmaker, so he’ll be able to do anything and everything on the field and be more electric.”
It’s evident that Watson’s efforts to bond with his teammates have paid off already. He took the offense on an all-expenses paid trip to Atlantis in the Bahamas last week to foster camaraderie and team chemistry. It’s had the desired effect. They’re buying into him as a person and as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.
“He’s a great guy to be around,’’ Chubb said. “We all love him. He’s a natural leader. He’s been here since OTAs started. He took us on a trip. I think those things bring in trust and bonding for our team.”
That’s significant coming from Chubb, who was as close to Baker Mayfield as anyone.
“Me and Baker came in together, so we’ve always been close,” Chubb said. “He’ll still be one of my best friends. He’s a great person overall, so those things won’t change at all.”
He’s confident that Mayfield will be successful when he gets another chance.
“100 percent,’’ he said. “I know Baker. His attitude, his intensity, wherever he goes. It’ll be on. He’ll be ready.”
Coach Kevin Stefanski revealed after practice that he didn’t watch the interviews with plaintiffs Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes conducted by Soledad O’Brien for HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
“I didn’t,” Stefanski said Wednesday. “I read about it. I would tell you, we did a lot of work on that as we’ve talked about. We did a lot of work on Deshaun the person and there are legal proceedings ongoing, there’s an investigation ongoing so I won’t comment much further than that. But we understand with respect to that, it’s something we’re going to be dealing with as these proceedings go on.’’
Instead, Stefanski watched as Watson ran the new offense like it was old hat, ran downfield to congratulate teammates such as Jacoby Brissett on big plays, and spent more than 10 minutes after practice signing autographs and posing for photos with members of the military who were invited out to watch practice. He also presented linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. with a Rolex watch along with other gifts for giving him his No. 4 jersey.
“Deshaun, like all of our guys, are professionals and when they’re here, we have a job to do,’’ Stefanski said. “And we try very hard to block out and leave outside outside and make sure that we’re focusing on the day to day tasks at hand when it comes to football.’’
Stefanski acknowledged that Watson’s trip to the Bahamas, which included daily practices, helped the cause.
“Deshaun had another good day,” Stefanski said. “I thought he was really sharp [Tuesday] as well. I think all of that work matters. The work that they do in this building together, the work they do outside the building, it all adds up. You’ve heard me say it before, it’s added reps, so he’s doing a nice job.’’
Watson has already dazzled his defensive teammates, who know they’ll have to be great all summer to defend him. He appears to be fostering a unity between offense and defense that was missing last season.
“Great leader,’’ cornerback Greg Newsome II said. “Obviously, I haven’t been able to have too many conversations with him but I can just tell like it’s a different aura about him and you can tell he’s a great leader. He comes in the building, works every single day. You can tell by this offense, I think they’re looking great right now. But that’s the first thing I can say, he’s a great leader, great person.”
Like Stefanski, Newsome didn’t watch the HBO episode, and said Watson didn’t address it with the team.
“Nah and I don’t think that’s any of our business. His job in here is to play football and when he comes in here his job is football, not to tell us about his personal matters. He leaves those outside and he handles those with his family and then when he comes in this building we’re all about the work.”
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