Browns QB Deshaun Watson selected as 1 of 5 team captains on eve of 1st full season after suspension

CLEVELAND (AP) — Deshaun Watson's first full season in Cleveland will include another first for the quarterback: He's a Browns captain.

Watson, who was suspended 11 games last season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual assault and harassment during massage therapy sessions when he played for Houston, was one of five Cleveland players elected as captains by their teammates.

Along with Watson, All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, left guard Joel Bitonio, linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. and long snapper Charley Hughlett were selected in a vote announced after practice Thursday.

Watson is the only new captain in 2023, and coach Kevin Stefanski said the honor is deserved.

“Deshaun, it’s very, very natural for him to lead,” Stefanski said following practice at Cleveland Browns Stadium. “And I think he’s comfortable leading from out in front. I think he’s comfortable from leading and letting his teammates get credit.

"That’s just something he’s always done his whole life. And just the way he’s integrated himself into this football team is impressive to watch.”

The Browns traded for Watson in March 2022, signing him to a fully guaranteed $230 million contract, a deal that brought heavy criticism to the franchise. Watson returned from his suspension and played six games, but looked rusty and not at all like the 2020 league passing leader while with the Texans.

But this is a new season, and Watson will have more playmakers, including speedy wide receivers Elijah Moore and Marquise Goodwin to target.

In addition to working on his game, Watson tried to strengthen his bond with teammates, hosting many of them for workouts in Texas, Puerto Rico and Miami.

“To see how Deshaun has integrated himself into the team has just really been impressive,” said Browns assistant general manager Catherine Raiche. "To be able to be with us this entire offseason program and really build connection with his teammates and be able to gain their trust and do everything he’s done, I think has been great and he’s been just great to be around.”