Watson suffered the injury in the first half of Sunday's victory over the Baltimore Ravens, per the Browns. The 28-year-old suffered a displaced fracture in his right glenoid in his right shoulder. Surgery is expected to allow for a full recovery. Watson also played through a high ankle sprain in the comeback win, according to the team.
"I'm still in disbelief," Watson told reporters on Wednesday. "I'm still trying to process all the information that I've been getting since last night. It's tough. I felt like we were turning a corner to really make a run and I believe that we still will with the guys in this locker room. I just wanted to be physically a part of it, on the field with those guys."
Watson added that his surgery is scheduled for next week. The team said in a statement that it expected Watson to be ready for the start of the 2024 season.
"(I'm) very confident in the doctors that's going to be doing the surgery," Watson said. "Very confident in my rehab and my mindset and my determination to get back strong."
The injury is a severe blow to the 6-3 Browns, who currently sit in the No. 6 spot in the AFC. Sunday's win over Baltimore marked the best game Watson has played in Cleveland, particularly in the second half against a very good Ravens defense. In the final two quarters, he completed 14 of 14 passes for 9.6 yards per attempt with a touchdown, no turnovers and a 130.4 passer rating. That he performed so well while injured is even more impressive.
The performance suggested he might be turning a corner in Kevin Stefanski's scheme after a previous shoulder injury and ineffective QB play kept the Browns offense from finding a groove.
Alas, Watson's season is over after Week 10.
"We are very disappointed and devastated for Deshaun, especially given all that he has battled and gone through medically this season, especially in light of how well he's played since his most recent injury," Browns general manager Andrew Berry told reporters on Wednesday.
The highly paid quarterback now will have started just six games for Cleveland for the second consecutive season after a blockbuster trade with Houston. Last season, Watson was suspended for the first 11 games and looked rusty upon his return. This year, it was injuries that kept him on the sideline. The QB missed two games with a shoulder injury. He returned in Week 7 but lasted just five pass attempts before a crushing blow put him back on the sideline. He returned again in Week 9 and played through injury in Week 10.
Berry was asked what gives him confidence that Watson will be able to return to a level of play commensurate with this five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed contract following another injury and extended absence.
"We feel good about Deshaun," Berry said. "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 mentioned -- he's the leader of this team. We're excited to get him back for 2024."
Berry also told reporters that Watson's new injury is not related to his previous shoulder ailments.
NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported that Watson wanted to play through the shoulder injury and sought multiple medical opinions, per sources informed of the situation. Ultimately, the medical professionals were clear: The shoulder could fall apart if Watson got hit again in the same spot, per Pelissero.
Watson confirmed to reporters that he wanted to play through the injury.
"I pushed very hard for it," Watson said on Wednesday. "To the point where all the experts and the doctors were the ones who told me there was no chance. (I) pushed as far as I possibly could to get back out there and just try to play and try to push it to after the season. But I think the best situation for, I guess, longevity in my career is to be able to get immediate surgery, and that's what all the experts said, so I've got to follow their footsteps and go from there."
With Watson out for the balance of the season, Cleveland will start rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson this Sunday against the Steelers over veteran P.J. Walker, who has gone 1-1 in two starts this season. Thompson-Robinson lost his only start this season when Watson was a surprise game-time scratch in Week 4.
The Browns plan to add a third quarterback to its roster, per Berry.
Cleveland is 6-3 on the back of Myles Garrett and one of the best defenses in the NFL. With Watson done for the year, Jim Schwartz's D will have to be just as good or better down the stretch for the Browns to hold their playoff positioning.
"We really look at this as an incredible challenge and opportunity for our organization," Berry said. "We have gone through a lot through the first nine weeks. … That's one of the things I'm most proud of with the group to date. Our ability to (overcome adversity) 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 experiences we really do have an organization … that have grown Teflon skin and cast-iron stomachs. I'm proud of that and we're going to have to rely on that as we move forward. 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."