QB Deshaun Watson (9.6.23)

Deshaun, when you were trying to decide what team you wanted to be traded to, how much was Kevin (Stefanski) a selling point in his ideas for the offense and ways to make you a better quarterback? 

“It was huge. At that time coming in, making a decision – I want to expand my offensive knowledge, something different. I think all the teams that I was, you know, looking at had different offenses than I had in Houston. But Kevin, he came in and he was out of all the teams that I visited with, him and AB (Anthony Berry) were the only ones that really pretty much talked about football and what they want to do and kind of incorporate me into the offense. And then you look at the skill guys that we’re thinking about getting. All the things, all the moves that we’ve been making before is something that they already told me going into that whole process. So, I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be a part of Kevin and what he’s been building up here in Cleveland, and I think that we can be very successful.”


How has that evolved with you and Kevin (Stefanski), the back and forth, trying to figure out what’s the best plays, the best offense for you? How has that evolved in the last 18 months or so? 

“It’s growing. It’s a growing process. It’s a learning process. We’ll continue to grow throughout the season. It’s not finalized. I don’t think it’s ever finalized. If you talk to the great ones that played with their coach or their OC for a very long time, I think each and every year there’s something that you can evolve and take your offense to another level. So, it’s been great. It’s been fun. It’s been very exciting. And I think he’s excited about going into this week one, and I am too.”


As you look where you’re at right now over the last month and a half, where do you feel like you’ve grown and progressed the most in that time? 

“I mean, everything. Just me as a player, me as a leader, me as a quarterback. The knowledge of the offense, what Kevin is thinking, what AVP (Alex Van Pelt) is thinking, how we want to attack different schemes on defense and just everything. I’m never satisfied with how I was a month ago. I’m never satisfied with how I was a week ago. So, it’s just continuing to just grow and continue to learn and be better each and every day.”


In terms of optimism and excitement for a season and hope for great big things to happen. How does this season for you compare to any other that you’ve gone into? 

“Honestly, it’s very similar. I think, my time in Houston, we had some big, I say big goals and dreams that we want to do and I think people realized that we can compete with some of the top teams because of the teams that we had in Houston. We had opportunities, but we didn’t stay healthy a lot of times and a lot of moving parts. So of course, it didn’t go our way. But I think this year is a fresh year. It’s a new year and it’s a lot of newness to this offense and defense. So, it’s very exciting, not just for the fans and the media, but for ourselves.”


Along those lines, your season opener was delayed last year because of what transpired last season. Does this one mean more to you? 

“Every game means a lot to me, not just because I missed the first half of the season last year and came back in. I think each and every game is an opportunity for myself to go out there and show who I am. And I have a lot to prove, and I want to go out there and prove it, not just for people in general, but just for myself because that’s the type of competitor I am and I just want to go out there and be the best I can and help this team win.”


You talked about wanting to really hit the ground running, coming out, firing on all cylinders, offensively, just knowing where you’re at, where the offense is. How confident are you and how do you feel about the ability to achieve that, to really hit the ground running come Sunday and not having to spend a lot of time working things out, working through things?

“I’m very confident and I just really – to add on to that, all the work has been put in, so we’re going to continue to put in the work until that first whistle and the ball is kicked off and then we just got to go out there and just go play and just put things together and execute. And I think that’s the biggest thing. Go out there on that field and know that we put in the work and we have the team and the players around and the coach and staff with the game plan to go out there and execute to try to win for the Cleveland Browns.”


What is your game plan? Three of your games were against division teams last year, and does that give you better comfort now going into full season against this division? 

“Yeah, I mean, the division is the division, but every year is a different year. So, we learn and we live how we watch the film and we live what happened last year. But at the same time, going into this year, we just got to focus on the task ahead, so we get our division early on and we got to go out there and compete because there’s no slouches in this division. And these are three other great teams in the AFC and the NFL. So, we got to go out there and make sure we ready to play.”


When you got voted captain, first of all, what does that mean to you? And then Nick (Chubb) is the latest guy to talk about how much confidence he has in you. What does it mean to you when you hear your teammates talk like that? 

“Of course, it means a lot, but that’s my character. That’s who I am. And then all the things that they want to see are going to eventually show the more time they’re around me like they’ve been the past year and a half. And the more we get on the field and work out and train in the offseason, during the season, during training camp, all that stuff just kind of naturally comes out. There’s no point of me trying to force the issue or force who I am as a leader, as a captain. I appreciate the C being on the jersey and things like that. But even if I wasn’t voted captain, I was still going to be the leader and continue to control what I can control and lead this team to hopefully a whole bunch of victory.”


What stands out to you about the Bengals’ defense when you watch them?

“Effort, execution. Guys that fly around, are very smart. They don’t make a lot of mistakes, and you have to beat them. You have to beat them. They don’t give you a lot of easy throws or easy runs. You got to go earn it.”


What has you feeling so much better about the offense and your role and the scheme and all of that stuff than maybe you did last year? 

“I’d just say time. Time and just reps are the biggest thing that makes my confidence a lot better than it was last year.”


What do you appreciate about Joe Burrow’s game? 

“I think it’s the grit. I think it’s the fight, the competitiveness, and just the swagger he got and all those attributes. I can keep going on and on, but he’s one the best in the game for a reason, and he’s had all the success in the world because he works at it. I don’t really know him as a person, but I just know him from afar and what other people say. I think he’s a great teammate, great player, great person to be around so you know, a lot of respect for Joe.”


What are your expectations for this season, individually?

“My expectation for the season is to be the best player I can be. Be the best Deshaun Watson.”


What do you make of the fact the Bengals have won the division two years in a row, and yet the Browns have played them really well? What do you make of that? Does this team just match up well against the Bengals? 

“I’m not sure. I guess that’s just the way the NFL works. I’m not sure how to really answer that.”


Deshaun, I know that Bengals secondary looks different than it did this time last year. I guess just as you prepared for this, what have you seen out of this particular group compared to last year? 

“That’s a small sample size. Just because two new guys in the system in the secondary. I know (Dax) Hill was there last year, he was a rookie, so he played in certain spots. A little bit of nickel. Then 29 (Cam Taylor-Britt) played, a little bit of corner. He played against us last year. Very good player. And of course, Mike Hilton. I know it’s a new secondary, but those guys are going to be flying around, they’re going to be ready to play, they’re going to be active, and we got to make sure that we match their energy. We respect their defense, we respect their secondary. And no matter who they put out there, we got to go out there and play. ”


Last year, late in the year, the weather wasn’t great. I don’t think they had full houses. So what do you expect from the atmosphere Sunday for the home over, when all the fans have all that excitement? 

“I mean, I expect nothing but great, positive, fun, loud energy. That’s one of the reasons why I chose Cleveland. It’s the fanbase. I want that feeling, how you used to feel, that college atmosphere. Fans are up, they’re loud, they’re cheering on the offense, they cheer on the defense. The special teams, when guys make big plays, we’re getting the energy going in the stadium. And a lot of people know, especially as players, we feed off the fans, and the fans feed off us. So, if we can match those two, I think we can have a lot of success.”


Going into the season, there’s so many expectations for this team and also for you as a player. So, for you to return to that guy we saw in Houston who could just take over games, what has to happen for you? 

“Just be me. And I don’t want to return as that guy in Houston, I want to be better than that guy. So, what I was, what is it 2023? So three years ago, I’m not the same guy. So, I feel like I’ve evolved to a new level, and I’m ready to be able to show that. Last year was a tricky time, where I was learning everything, but I don’t want to just get caught up on, ‘Hey, Houston this, Houston that.’ I had a lot of fun, a lot of success in Houston, but I want to have that success and start something new in Cleveland.”


So a lot of people say, can you get back to the level you were at, 2020, 2019? You’re saying you want to be better than even that level? 

“Of course, and I know I can be.”


Those Houston teams that won the division were good teams. Is this team better? 

“I’m not going to match the teams. We have some great teams, a lot of success in Houston. I had fun in Houston with the guys I played with and the coaching staff I had. This team is the new 2023 Cleveland Browns, and we’re ready to take the fill, and we’ll figure out towards the end of the year how we are.”


How excited are you to run in the huddle and the RPOs and the design runs and empty backfield and all the things that you’re going to get to do this season? 

“I’m just excited to go out there and play whatever Kevin calls, go out there and execute and try to put a lot of points on the board and help this team out, help the defense out and win a lot of games.”


And you talk about how you guys want to win every game. I know, but doing well in this opener, can that set the tone for the season?

“Of course, every opener is going to set the tone for the season. You want to ride, you want to go into the season with a victory and that’s what everyone is striving for. But every week is a new week. It’s a new opportunity and a lot of things happen in the NFL, but we got to lock in and focus on this week and that’s what we’ve been focused on. It’s September 10 at 1:00 o’clock at Cleveland Browns Stadium and we want to go out there and go have fun.”


When you talk about the offense producing fireworks, when you visualize it, what does it look like? 

“A lot of points and victory and we’re just out there having fun. That’s all I can really speak on that.”


Can you relate to what Joe (Burrow) must be going through? Having to come into this opener, against a defense like this, coming off a calf strain, not having practiced for a month. You, as a fellow quarterback, do you sort of kind of relate to what he must be dealing with right now with that?

“As far as not having a training camp – it depends every player is different. Some guys need training camp, some guys don’t need training camp. I feel like it just depends on what they’ve been working on with them. But as far as going against our defense, I can’t give out tips and cues. That’s crazy. So just hope he’s ready. For sure, it’s Joe Burrow, so he’s going to be good.”


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