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Browns QB Deshaun Watson (shoulder) to start Sunday vs. Cardinals

It's the end of another work week, and for the first time in at least a month, Deshaun Watson appears set to play without limitation.

The Browns quarterback did not receive a designation on Cleveland's Friday injury report ahead of the Browns' Week 9 game against the Arizona Cardinals, meaning he is expected to start.

The lack of designation comes as a surprise, considering Watson's status has been a news item since Week 4. Because of a shoulder injury suffered in Cleveland's Week 3 win over Tennessee, Watson missed starts in Weeks 4 and 6, returned in Week 7 before exiting in the first quarter of the Browns' win over the Colts, then sat out of Cleveland's Week 8 loss to Seattle. Both rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson and veteran PJ Walker have started in place of Watson over that span, with Walker handling the majority of the signal-calling duties.

Cleveland's Week 8 loss seemed to lead most everyone to the same conclusion: The Browns need a better option under center than Walker if they hope to stay in the race for the AFC North crown. Cleveland largely kept quiet at the trade deadline, shipping Donovan Peoples-Jones to Detroit, but declining to make a move at quarterback.

Watson participated in Wednesday's and Thursday's practices ahead of Sunday's game and spoke with reporters following the latter session, giving the same vague responses regarding his health after two straight tests of his injured rotator cuff.

"I mean, it's getting better each and every day. The arrow's going up," Watson said on Thursday. "The process has been very, very good, and we're just steady, just going day-to-day and just making sure that we're doing everything we can to build that strength and everything."

Watson's ongoing shoulder problem has driven local media members to pay close attention to otherwise irrelevant details, such as perceived velocity of passes thrown by Watson in practice, especially after his attempts clearly lacked adequate zip in his brief showing against Indianapolis. The results are intentionally inconclusive -- Cleveland has no obligation to reveal any hard data on how hard Watson can throw the football -- but the quarterback did admit he believes resting last week may have improved his chances of taking the field in Week 9.

"I guess it did. The biggest thing was they don't want to put me in the spot where I re-injured the shoulder," Watson said. "So there's a fine line that you got to play with, and you just got to make sure you doing all the stuff that you need before you can go back out there."

The Browns have kept details to themselves throughout most of this process, leaving media members to rely almost solely on the brief time they're allowed to watch Watson participate in practice during the week, and on the Friday injury report. Watson was expected to appear on the report with a questionable designation, but the lack of designation suggests he's in the best condition possible since he first suffered the injury.

We can now officially expect Watson to play Sunday. How he fares will tell us just how healthy he truly is.

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