QB Deshaun Watson (7.23.23)

How much more comfortable does this feel now that you’re getting into training camp compared to a year ago?

“Personally, I’m in a different space. I feel really well, feel really good, comfortable being around the guys, the locker room, the coaching staff, the organization, and just the city of Cleveland. So having an opportunity to go into the season, full offseason locked in and focused definitely feels good and I want to continue to keep channeling and cherishing all that energy. Positive energy that has been spread around this organization, the city and myself.”


When you say you’re in a different space, do you find it easier to focus on football this year because it’s so different for you than what was going on at this time last year?

“Of course, yeah. I can just lock in on my craft. I can lock in on my job, my profession. When I leave the football field, I can focus on studying the game and not have any distractions. So that’s what I’m just doing is just taking it one day at a time, one opportunity at a time, and just really just cherishing this moment as best as I can.”


Deshaun, when people talk about you in the locker room, they view you as a really strong, natural leader. Do you feel this year, like you took the guys to Miami, you went to Puerto Rico – do you feel like this year you’ve really had the ability to take the reins of this locker room?

“Yeah, and then it goes back again – last year was just a different space for myself, but different for the whole team and organization. There were some things that we had to deal with and take care of, and we had to do that. So it was hard for the team to really attach to me fully because they had to get ready for another quarterback in Jacoby (Brissett). But like I said, the past is the past, but we can focus on this year and everyone was able to really figure out who I was and get to know me a little bit better. My personality has been able to show around the locker room as best as I can.”


How is Kevin (Stefanski) helping you? And then how would you characterize how your partnership, your relationship has evolved in the last 18 months?

“Me and Kevin, our relationship has continued to grow. As the days go by, we continue to talk and communicate. He knows he can come to me with whatever situation. If it’s about football, if it’s about life, if it’s about the locker room, anything, he can come to me and I’ll make sure I take care of it and vice versa. I can do the same with him. We’ve been able to talk over the past offseason. Sometimes we’ll talk about football, sometimes we’ll talk about family, vacations, all types of things. So being able to have that relationship and that open role for both of us to communicate is definitely a bonus for us.”


When you said that minicamp, that everything’s new as it relates to the offense. Can you elaborate on that a little bit and sort of give us an idea of how everything’s going?

“I’ll just say that being able to move everyone around. Being able to have guys play all types of different positions and being able to go out there and play fast. But like I said, the biggest thing is moving guys around and being able to do all types of things that you guys in the media and this fan base, haven’t seen in the past. So being able to open the whole playbook and open the whole offense is definitely going to be special.


How much is Elijah (Moore) being with this team now? And the way you can utilize him all over the formation?

“It’s great because Elijah can do all types of things he’s very versatile. He can play outside, and inside, whatever you need him to do, he can do. But also just the young guys and the depth that we have in that receiving room. Yeah, a lot of guys might not have big names yet, but they can go out there and they can make plays. Being able to hang around Amari (Cooper), hang around DPJ (Donovan Peoples-Jones), hang around Elijah, the young guys are being able to channel that opportunity, that grind, that work and be able to go out here and participate and be locked in and focused. That’s what we’ve been able to see and you want to have depth and everyone be able to have the opportunity to make plays.”


I know that time away for you was difficult last year. Did the suspension change you as a player or a person?

“Of course, the whole situation changed me. It was a situation where I just kind of had to lock in on myself, channel and really know who I’m surrounding myself with and just really who’s going to be there and support me even when I’m at my lowest point. The last few years were definitely the lowest point in my life, but that’s part of life. I just grow from it. I learn from it. I continue to move forward and push forward and continue to show my real character, my real personality and who I am.”


You said you’ve embraced when the pressure is on you. So, how comfortable are you with the thought of – I think it’s pretty prevalent out there that this team will go as far as you take it.

“Yeah, I think pressure, it’s a broad word. I think a lot of people see it differently. With me, it’s a situation where moments and situations, opportunities you fear and you don’t feel comfortable because you haven’t prepared yourself for those moments. My job as a quarterback, as a leader is to try to think of all situations and opportunities that we can go through and it might be certain situations that we probably haven’t thought of or practiced. In my mind, I like to kind of daydream and put myself in those positions and if I know I can, then I can be a little bit calm and try to bring down the pressure. To your question, it’s more of just kind of like, yeah, it’s going to go as far as the quarterback takes us because we touch the ball every play, we’re the leader and we direct where the ball goes and if it gets in the end zone. I think with this opportunity for myself, I want to be able to embrace that pressure and embrace that opportunity and let’s see what happens.”


When you talk about how this whole situation changed you and you’re in a good place now. How has it changed you? What place are you in right now? Are you mentally where you want to be this year?

“I’m blessed. I’m happy. I’m grateful. Thankful for these opportunities. I talked to the team last night. We had opportunities and Kevin called up a couple of guys and we gave our history, our story. We call it the four H’s, which is the history about yourself, your heroes, your heartbreaks and your hopes. I had the opportunity to speak to the team and told my story. But, I’m just happy about this life in general and I have a great support cast around me, a great family, a great home and an organization that’s backing me up. With that foundation, I feel like I can get back to where I was and be even better as a person and as a player.


How many players did the four H’s?

“I think it was like three players and one coach. I think every night we’re probably going to have the opportunity to get to know everyone.”


Deshaun, one of the big topics recently has been the value of running backs. You have a pretty good one in Nick Chubb. Could you imagine this offense without Nick Chubb?

“No, I cannot. Chubb – really all those guys – but starting with Chubb, he’s a big part of this offense and we know that. So, we’re going to continue to feature him and do what he’s great at. Chubb, he’s going to embrace his role and be able to do everything, catch passes, run the ball, and do things that he probably hasn’t done before. When you get in that meeting room and you ask him if he’s comfortable with it, he’s open for whatever is going to help the team get to that ultimate goal, that’s what he’s going to do. Being able to feature him is a very important part of not just this offense but for this team.”


You had a chance to watch those games last year from afar, did you learn anything new about him or see anything about him?

“I’ve always known Chubb is going to be Chubb. I’ve been watching him since high school. We’re both from Georgia, so watching high school football, Cedar Town and games. I don’t think we were in the same division or bracket, whatever you call it, classification. But I already knew about Chubb, so it’s not new to me. It wasn’t surprising to me. Now having an opportunity to play with him because it’s actually fun.”


How has AVP (Alex Van Pelt) and Kevin challenged you when it comes to elevating your game?

“I think the biggest challenge is being able to go out there and kind of direct the offense. Of course they give me plays in certain situations, but allowing me to be able to put us in the right play. Whenever that situation where we know we’re not in the right play and the defense gets us, I’m not making that mistake. Dirting the ball, maybe sometimes throwing it away, or sometimes you might have to take a sack just because it’s just part of the game and you have to give the defense credit. Being able to take that next step with that and putting us in situations where we can kind of help the defense, help the special teams. But putting us in situations to fill positions to be able to score points is definitely another area that we want to continue to grow.”


It looks like a lot more shotgun this year, sort of a different offense. In the six games you played last year, did it feel like you were under center more than ever?

“No, not really. In Houston, I was under the center a lot. We did a lot of wide zone and play action and keepers. No, not really. I think it was a balance of what I’ve done before.”






How did your teammates receive your story last night? What kind of feedback did you get how did it feel for you to be able to tell your story?

“It was great. I mean, the feedback has been great. A lot of guys have been coming up to me and telling me thank you and they appreciate the story,  just really just how real it was and how impactful it was for them to hear it. A lot of people knew of me. A lot of people heard different things. A lot of people, especially last year, heard different things. A lot of people watched me through college, we have a young team, so they kind of knew me. They didn’t know my history, the history from where I grew up, Gainesville, Georgia, A-15 Hashan Square–section eight apartments. That type of situation of when I was a young kid. I didn’t think of the NFL. I didn’t know I was going to make it out of high school. My mom was sick and had tongue cancer and not being able to eat solid food ever again. Not having a father figure in my life ever. Probably 27 years, I’ve only seen him four times. Different stuff like that is just things that people don’t really get to hear about. Especially last year has been the media directing and narrator something else. It’s been kind of overshadowed. So having an opportunity to tell that story in front of those guys and lift those teammates in their eyes and be able to touch them and let them know why I am who I am is definitely powerful.”


Kevin said he found you in the facility before you’re supposed to report watching film and he wasn’t expecting to see you there. Do you remember that? Why were you there watching film when it wasn’t even report day yet?

“Just I’m just hungry. I’m anxious. I’m ready to just go out there and play ball. I’ve always been a student of the game, but nothing else to do when I’m sitting at home. All I want to do is just go out there and try to improve. We have so much time and just free time in the offseason and my mindset was just really just making sure I’m prepared and going out there, like I said before, putting myself in situations that can come up this season on the field, off the field, and just being able to go out there and grind. When I’m in Cleveland, if I’m not at the house or out eating, I’m at the facility. Those are the three spots that I’m pretty much located.”


The running backs are kind of taking a literal beating around the league now with this economic situation. You’re a quarterback, but do you have sympathy for kind of the situation that they’re in right now?

“Of course. I mean, they carry this team. They carry the offense. You don’t have a running game, it’s hard to have a passing game. It’s hard to open up for the receivers. It’s hard to make the game easy for the quarterback because a lot of teams can play too high-shell and do different things and try to take away the passing game. Yeah, of course I think guys should get paid. I think all of those guys should get paid that are either holding out or waiting for the opportunity. I think they deserve the money and they deserve everything that each person deserves.”


How worried are you about Marquise Goodwin? How disappointed wereyou to find out he has blood clots?

“I wouldn’t even say disappointment. I think it’s just more of just making sure he’s healthy, making sure he’s safe. He’s a brother of mine. We signed with the same agent so I’ve known Marquise for a long time, and I know how good he is and I know his heart. I know how hungry he is to just come out here and play with us. So, it’s tough for him to watch from the sidelines, but safety comes first and health is first, and we are all here for him. We have all been praying for him. We are all going to support him and rock with him. And when his opportunity comes, I know he’s going to be ready and prepare for that moment. So whatever he’s going to do to make sure that he’s safe and healthy, it comes first and then football is going to come after that.”


Can you talk about where you are personally? Do you feel like you’re at the best spot personally in your life?

“I think I’m in the best spot of my life and I think it’s just because I’m older, I’m wiser.

I’ve experienced different things in different situations. I think you guys can see it by the way I’m answering the questions, just kind of being able to talk and communicate. Last year it wasn’t that situation because I wasn’t in the right headspace, but being able to have that right headspace, go through different media, tasks and opportunities, go through, what the NFL put me through with therapy sessions and things like that, I didn’t take that lightly. I really cherish those moments and I want to learn. I thank everyone that was a part of that and being able to, like I said before, have that background or that foundation support me has been great.”


Have you continued some of that? You mentioned the therapy sessions. Have you tried to kind of continue that?

“Yeah. I’ve never experienced it before because I thought being a young kid and things were going in the right direction at the time, as I thought. You don’t really think. You just kind of go to day-to-day life. Even when you’re not going through a situation and things are going great, it’s always good to be able to talk to someone, be able to experience and learn different things. I feel like I can learn from anybody. No matter what part of life or situation or how high up in your profession you are, or how low you are. I feel like everyone has a story and an opportunity that you can learn from. So when I’m talking to someone, I try to just if it’s a small little nugget I can just grab from it and put it in my life and my situation so I can grow and learn. That’s what I want to do.”


What would you want people just to know about you?

“Know about me? I’ve always been who I am. Nothing ever changed me in the way of just the type of person that cares about him. I’ve been able to grow and learn like I said before, but who I was as a little kid growing up and being able to give back to the city, back to the community, and just love people and just give out just peace and just great energy, that’s me. That’s Deshaun Watson. I know other people have different opinions. That’s fine, that’s totally fine. I can’t let that dictate who I am as a person, and I want to continue to just show that and it’s going to eventually show because I’m a man of Christ and I know my Lord and Savior, so I just focus on that and it’s going to continue to come to light.”


Deshaun, you mentioned helping in the community and stuff. You have been doing that largely outside of your camp you have over the summer, and you’ve largely done that under the radar with very little fanfare. Just how important has that been for you to be able to do things like that without trying to specifically attract attention to yourself?

“Because that’s what I’ve always done. That’s just me. I don’t need the media. I don’t need people to necessarily talk about it. I don’t do it for the glory and things like that. I do it for the kids. I do it for the community. I do it for people in need so they can have those opportunities to smile and have things that they probably wish they probably always dreamed of and couldn’t get. So I have the opportunity to kind of give back to them. I don’t just do it because I’m in a new city, things like that. I do it because I love it. That’s just me, my heart, that’s my family and that’s how it helped me get to my situation when I was a little kid. So being able to grow from that and do that – and I don’t just do it in Cleveland. I do it in Georgia, back in my hometown. I still do it in Houston. I still have love for the city of Houston and the people there. I have my home there. So anywhere I can give back and be able to inspire people and motivate people, that’s my calling.”


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