The decision of the Browns to trade for quarterback Deshaun Watson elicited mixed reactions from the team’s fans. Some loved it, off-field issues notwithstanding. Some hated it, given the off-field issues.
There was no sign of negativity on Saturday, for the first public practice of training camp. As explained by Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain DealerWatson received an “enthusiastic reception” from fans who attended the session.
Watson was enthusiastic about the enthusiasm. He lingered long after practice ended to sign autographs, pose for photographs, signed his cleats and gave them to a couple of kids who beat him in a game of rock, paper, scissors, and exited in his socks.
This doesn’t mean that some fans of the team have become unconcerned about the arrival of a man who faced 24 lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions. (Twenty of them have been settled.) It just means that none of those fans attended practice on Saturday, or that none of them felt comfortable turning an inherently positive event into something that included even a hint of protest.
Regardless, the passage of time tends to make even the worst things a little better, especially since a horrible start to the summer (from a PR perspective) has yielded to a three-day hearing that seemingly went far better for Watson than expected and a month of no developments, which is far better than a month of more bad developments.
Now, everyone continues to wait for the decision of Judge Sue L. Robinson as to whether Watson will be suspended (he probably will be) and the length of it (the Browns, we’re reported, are bracing for eight games).
For now, all the Browns can do is get ready for Week One, which is happening regardless of whether Watson is there and for how long he won’t be.
“I can’t wait for us to get to [play with him in games], whichever week we see him,” tight end David Njoku told reporters on Saturday. “Hopefully, sooner than later.”
That’s the basic reality for players and those fans who aren’t concerned by the allegations. All that matters is getting one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL on the field. And until they know how long he’ll be gone, the focus continues to be preparing for the games to come.
“We have to just take each day as it is,” Njoku added. “Whoever we have, we have to put our best foot forward and just keep working.”
They’ll continue to work while they continue to wait. It shouldn’t be much longer. Then again, it’s surprising it has taken as long as it has.