'We move as if he will be or won't be': Cleveland Browns blocking out Deshaun Watson uncertainty
It was a different feel to the opening of Browns training camp. At least it was for Nick Chubb.
"Things are definitely back to normal now," the All-Pro running back said Wednesday. "No more COVID tests, no more wearing a mask. No more restrictions. We can come in here any time of day we want and get our work in. We were able to do all the things we wanted to do."
Compared to two seasons spent under the cloud of a global pandemic, it's easy to see why it felt normal to Chubb to be back in the facility for the first full-squad practice. Compared to most NFL teams, though, even getting back to "normal" isn't normal for the Browns.
That all changed once the March trade to acquire quarterback Deshaun Watson was executed. From that moment on, the Browns knew there would be questions due to the allegations of sexual misconduct made by more than two dozen women against him.
Even with those allegations hanging over Watson, the Browns expected to have a firm idea of what kind of potential punishment he would be receiving for any violations of the NFL personal conduct policy by the time camp opened.
The only issue for them has been that the jointly appointed disciplinary officer, Sue L. Robinson, hasn't operated on their time schedule.
The Browns took the field Wednesday still awaiting word on any kind of suspension Watson may receive. The actual hearing took place June 28-30, with the post-hearing briefs submitted to Robinson on July 12.
"I just think that's the nature of this game," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I think player availability, we have to deal with that in-game. You get into the fourth quarter or third quarter of a game, and that's our job to adjust.
It's the player's job to be ready in a 'next-man-up' mentality, as you've all heard 1,000 times before, and then it's our job as coaches to prepare everybody to play."