Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager, Andrew Berry (11.15.23)

Opening statement:

“Morning, everyone. Okay, as you guys read in the statement that we issued this morning, Deshaun (Watson), he sustained a new injury in the second quarter of the Baltimore game this past Sunday. A fracture in his throwing shoulder that’s going to require season-ending surgery. The good news is we expect the surgery to go well and for him to be ready for the start of the 2024 season. Obviously, we are very disappointed and devastated for Deshaun, especially given all that he has battled and gone through medically this season, and especially in light of how well he’s played since his most recent injury. One of the things that I think about though, with last Sunday is it was just such an incredible testament to his physical and mental toughness. He was already playing with a high ankle sprain, and then one of the things that we’ve learned as we talked to the docs over the past 48 hours is in the infrequent event that this injury occurs with a thrower in their throwing shoulder, usually it restricts the mobility. There’s so much pain that they can’t continue to throw. So for Deshaun to play, call it two and a half quarters at a really high level against one of the best defenses in the league with this injury, plus the high ankle, it really is an incredible display of physical and mental toughness on his part. Moving forward, here’s kind of what I know – how we are approaching things moving forward, we really look at this as an incredible challenge and opportunity for our organization, and we have obviously gone through a lot over the first nine weeks. I think one of the things I talked about during the bye week is the ability to overcome adversity, and specifically in-game adversity throughout the season. And that’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of with the group to date has been our ability to do so over the first nine games, and undoubtedly, we’re going to have another obstacle to overcome as we go through the next eight games of the season. But because of those experiences, we really do have an organization. This is players, coaches and staff that have grown Teflon skin and cast iron stomachs, and I’m proud of that and we’re going to have to rely on that as we move forward. But it really does present a fantastic opportunity for us as we sit here at 6-3, in the middle of a division race, in the middle of a playoff push going into the last eight games of the season. And lastly, before I open it up for questions, one of the things that Kevin (Stefanski) talks about often is that football is the ultimate team sport and it’s never about one individual. And undoubtedly the quarterback position is very important, but it is a team sport and there are a lot of individuals that will contribute to our success. And we’ve seen that over the first nine weeks and we’re excited to be able to meet that challenge head-on as we go into the second half of the season. And that really starts with us being focused on doing the things necessary to be one to know against Pittsburgh this week. So with that, I’ll open it up for questions.”


Can you say who will be the starting quarterback for you Sunday?

“Yeah, Jake (Trotter), I will let Kevin address that when you guys meet with him later today. We obviously have a ton of faith in that room with P.J. (Walker) and Dorian (Thompson-Robinson), but I’ll let him address that with you guys this afternoon.”


Do you feel you need to add to the room?

“Yeah. So, Tony (Grossi), as with any part of the roster, we’re always open to anything that helps improve the team. We do believe in carrying three quarterbacks between the active and the practice squad, and what that distribution looks like really depends on the player. So, the one thing I will share is that we will add a quarterback at some point in the near future. What that looks like will be a little bit to be determined.”


From what the doctors told you, did the previous injury make him any more susceptible to something like this, or is this completely different injury? 

“Yeah, Tom (Withers), this is a completely new injury. This has nothing to do with what he experienced during the year. It really was the result of a hit in the second quarter of the game. So this has nothing to do with the previous injury.”


Is the surgery scheduled?

“The surgery is in the midst of being scheduled, yes.”


Any fall on the shoulder or was it like a direct hit to it? 

“Deshaun told us that he took a hit. It’s a little bit unclear the exact play that had happened, but he remembers kind of taking a hit. To his credit, he really didn’t start even really feeling it till the second half of the game and then he didn’t even really raise it until well after the game. So again, it’s an incredible display of physical toughness for him to play with that and not even notice it, given the severity of the injury.”


Knowing that he was already beat up, why not proceed with a quarterback at the trade deadline? 

“Yeah. Again, we feel good about the room. Deshaun, obviously before this new injury, he’s completely healthy, in a good spot. It’s football. Guys do get hurt playing it. And so like I said, we’re going to move forward the room and continue to win games.”


I know hindsight is 20/20, but considering what Josh Dobbs has been able to do these last couple of weeks, everyone is circling that trade that you made, what was the driving force behind that? Was that a pick? Was that a savings or whatever? I know you can’t go back and undo anything, but just considering everything that’s unfolded with the backup situation here, do you have any regrets? 

“Yeah, Daryl (Ruiter), candidly, I’m not really focused on that right now. We do have a lot of confidence in our current QB room. We’re 6-3 and focused on this playoff push. We’re focused on the Steelers. There will be a time for reflection for everything over the course of the year, but that’s really not top of mind right now.”


Dobbs said recently that his agent thought he might be traded back before the deadline. Why didn’t that happen? 

“Yeah, I can’t speak to that. I’m not familiar with those comments, to be honest, Tony.”


Even though the trade deadline has passed, might there be creative ways to acquire a veteran quarterback who is on someone else’s roster right now? I mean, are you thinking outside of the box? You’re going to do anything that you can? 

“Honestly, Mary Kay (Cabot), our focus is on our current room and like I mentioned, we will at some point add a third quarterback that can have a variety of forms, but our focus is on our current room.”


How do you feel about Dorian’s progression this season and how confident are you in him if he needs to come up and play? 

“We feel good with Dorian’s progression. Obviously, he did a nice job, I guess going back to even May. Did a nice job throughout the spring, did a nice job throughout the preseason, really had a tough start under some really difficult circumstances in the first Baltimore game, and we’ve seen him grow really every week since he’s been with us. We think he’s a talented kid. He’s very smart, very diligent as a worker, and we’re pleased with his progress so far. But we’re going to certainly need all hands on deck as we move forward.”


Given this specific injury that there’s not a ton of history on it for quarterbacks and the throwing shoulders. So what’s the roadmap here, especially in terms of recovery timelines and things like that? 

“It’s a good question, Ashley (Bastock). I don’t think this is the appropriate setting for me to go into the specifics of the recovery timeline other than to say that although it may be unusual for a quarterback with a throwing shoulder, the medical process moving forward is very clear to us. It’s very clear to Deshaun, it’s very clear to the docs, and we do feel really good about him returning and playing at the level that we’re accustomed to.”


Are there any other quarterbacks that you know of that have had this injury that have come back from it? 

“That’s probably a better question for the docs. So yes, it’s not like Deshaun’s the first quarterback to suffer this injury in his throwing shoulder, but as Ashley did say, you usually do see it with other positions. But he should make a strong recovery.”


I know we’ve talked surgery before about the rotator cuff, but since we’re already going in, is there anything procedure related to the previous injury that needs to be addressed? 



With your record and just the talent you guys have, the defense playing the way it has, do you feel compelled to do everything you can to find out if there’s a veteran free agent quarterback with an extensive NFL resume you could possibly add? 

“We’ll always be open-minded, Nate (Ulrich), but I think again, similar to what I just told Mary Kay (Cabot), really, our focus is with the guys in the room, the guys on the team currently, we’ll never say no to an opportunity that we think makes sense and can help the team, but our focus is on the guys in the room.”


Because you said Deshaun (Watson) is fully healthy coming up to the trade deadline, did you consider making a trade at all just to add insurance there? 

“Yeah, I won’t go into the details. We’re pretty active. We have a lot of discussions about a lot of different positions that can help the team. But again, we do feel good about the room.”


Deshaun (Watson) will have played eleven games, basically, if you don’t count the Indy game, over three seasons, and now he’s going to be coming back from a surgery to his throwing shoulder. What gives you confidence that at any point he’s going to be able, given that layoff, to get back to the level that he was at before, to the level that commiserate with the contract that you guys have given him?

“Yeah, we feel good about Deshaun. We see how talented he is. We could see it since he returned from his last injury, the level that he is able to play. He’s smart, he’s physically tough, he’s mentally tough. He really is, as Kevin’s (Stefanski) mentioned, he’s the leader of the team and we’re excited to get him back for 2024.”


How disappointing is it that he (Deshaun Watson) played, I think what was maybe his best game in a Browns uniform and then to have this injury and then have to kind of go back and recover, I mean, you guys had to feel like he was maybe getting his stride?

“Yeah, we’re disappointed for him, we see how hard he worked, we see how well he played. And anytime that you lose, really any player to a season-ending injury, and then particularly your starting quarterback, it is disappointing. But at the same time, how we think about it internally is, look, it is a team sport and it takes everybody to have success, and it’s going to be an incredible opportunity for us to go ahead and continue to win games as we’re right in the thick of things at 6-3.”


In terms of the fully guaranteed $230,000,000 contract. Does fully guaranteed, is that completely, I guess this is for bookkeeping purposes more so than anything, is fully guaranteed, ironclad, fully guaranteed, or is there any recourse in that contract whatsoever in the event that as you move forward, things don’t go as everybody hopes they will? 

“Although I don’t normally talk about contracts, with that, it’s guaranteed for skill injury and cap. That’s just typical purposes in the NFL when we talk about full guarantees.”


Is it true that Deshaun (Watson) was fighting to try to play through this even after he found out what he had and that he wanted to finish out this season? 

“That is true, Mary Kay (Cabot). Deshaun, he’s very competitive, and I think there is like a natural element of, you know, I finished the game, can I keep going. But part of our jobs, and primarily part of the doc’s jobs, is to make sure that we don’t put any player in a position where they’re compromised. Just the reality of it, this injury in a thrower and with the repetitiveness of throwing a football a couple of hundred times a week, realistically, it could create significantly more problems for the shoulder and make the injury that much more severe. So, this was a pretty clear medical recommendation. We feel good about it, and ultimately, like I said, we want Deshaun for a very long period of time, and that’s the course of action we’re going to take.”


Given what you said, injuries happen. We know that. We know the way (Deshaun) Watson plays. His legs are very big part of his game. How is it that nobody argued that you needed better insurance behind him? A back up in place from the start? 

“Yeah. Again, Tony (Grossi), we feel good about the room. I think those guys have stepped in nicely for us through the first nine weeks of the season. We look forward to continuing working with them, and our focus is on beating Pittsburgh.”


You guys wanted to go, you know, you want to go to the Super bowl this year. When you keep saying that you feel good about the room. Do you think that either P.J. Walker or Dorian Thompson Robinson can get you there?

“You know, Mary Kay (Cabot), again, it’s the consummate team sport. It’s not just going to be up to the quarterback. We have a lot of good players, a lot of good coaches. We’ve navigated a lot of ups and downs throughout the first half of the season. We’ve navigated a lot of adversity and we’re going to continue to do so regardless of the obstacles we face. That’s our job and that’s our mission.”


Understanding everything said this morning about the opportunity, feel good about where the team is and the quarterback room, and that this is pretty devastating to Browns fans who are really excited coming off Sunday’s win. How do you guys organizationally, internally make sure that this isn’t as devastating a blow within that locker room? I know it was a tough group of guys and they’ve already been through a lot but losing someone of Deshaun’s (Watson) talent at this juncture of the season, with the hopes and expectations that you had, how do you make sure that doesn’t affect them?

“You know Daryl (Ruiter), I’ll address your question twofold. So internally, I’ve talked about it a little bit over the past couple of minutes. We’re professionals. We understand that it’s never great to see a player of Deshaun’s magnitude suffer a season-ending injury. But at the same time, we’ve been through a lot of stuff as a group, and not just a lot of stuff this season, but over the past few years. One of the things that I think about, particularly with Kevin (Stefanski), our head coach, I always tell Peter (John-Baptiste) this, he has three superpowers, his intelligence, his creativity and his emotional control. And we’ve been through a lot and this is kind of another challenge and obstacle. And, you know, our focus is on looking at the opportunity in front of us. Like pity does us no good internally. And so that’s not how we go about it. We remain laser-focused on the task at hand, especially given the fact that we have eight more games in front of us, eight more regular season games in front of us, and we’ve got a big one coming to town Sunday against the Steelers. I would say externally with the fans, I think that’s the beauty of the NFL. That’s the beauty of it being a team sport and having those opportunities in front of you. I think about even most, like recent history. You think about 2017 with the Eagles where they won a Super Bowl with a backup quarterback. Or you even look at San Francisco last year where they got down to their third-string quarterback and made it to the NFC Championship game, so it’ll never be about one person. Again, we’re devastated. We’re disappointed for Deshaun, but we’re excited about what lies in front of us because we have an opportunity to finish the job.”


With the rust that Deshaun (Watson) displayed coming out of the suspension and then obviously the injury this year, what makes you guys so confident that he’s going to get back to the guy that you originally traded for?

“Yeah, I think this is similar to what I answered earlier. We see him every day in terms of his performance on the field, his preparation, his physical, mental toughness. I already know his attitude in terms of attacking the surgery and rehab. We really do feel great about that position for us moving for with him. Our immediate concern is beating Pittsburgh this week, but in terms of longer term, we’re really happy to have Deshaun as our starting quarterback.”


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