Divided Cleveland reckons with Deshaun Watson reality

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Now that the Watson reality has set in—he’ll be suspended for the first 11 games of the season, and fined $5 million, and made to undergo counseling to address what Roger Goodell called “predatory” behavior—closure allows the Browns to plan for the season and Watson to plan for an uncertain future that will include five weeks when he can have no contact with his team.

This, as one person in the middle of this maelstrom told me Sunday, “is a complicated, complicated, complicated story.”

There is closure, but there is not satisfaction. Watson issued a statement when the settlement was announced saying, “I take accountability for the decisions I made.” Shortly thereafter, before the press, he said, “I’ve always stood on my innocence … I never assaulted anyone or disrespected anyone.”

How does one person say—sort of—I’m sorry, and two hours later say, I’m not sorry for anything? It’s disingenuous absurdity. A few things I learned reporting on the Browns:

Watson has begun the league-mandate counseling, a source told me. My sense is the Browns hope that at some point Watson will understand what he either doesn’t understand or a denial he has been continually fed by his enablers—that he did nothing wrong. Very likely, the Browns believe counseling can help Watson get to the bottom of why he sought treatment from 66 massage therapists in 18 months, per the New York Times. That he has begun the counseling is a step in the right direction.

I would expect the Browns will look hard at adding a quarterback to supplement Jacoby BrissettBut tamp down the expectations that Jimmy Garoppolo is on the way. Not saying it’s impossible, but I don’t sense the Browns think the conditions are right for it. Too much money (unless the Niners pick up a ton of the obligation), lack of certainty on Garoppolo’s health with him coming back from shoulder surgery, and the difficulty of learning a new playbook overnight. Those are real issues. I doubt Cam Newton is in play either. But I do think the Browns will search for a challenger to backup Joshua Dobbs around the final cutdown next week.

I think the Browns gave Watson the $230-million guaranteed contract because they figured it was the only way they had a chance to get him. The Haslams have been pilloried for the contract, and rightfully so; Watson, even after his fine, will earn from the Browns $40 million in 2022. This is just my gut feeling, not something I was able to verify. But my gut tells me they felt they had only one chance after Watson told the team he was likely headed elsewhere after interviewing with four teams. Watson had Atlanta (near his home of Gainesville, Ga.), Carolina (near Clemson, his college) and New Orleans ahead of Cleveland on his wish list. How could the Browns differentiate themselves? A fully guaranteed contract. If you’re Jimmy Haslam, who had been through a slew of failed quarterbacks in his 9.5 years as owner, you might think: Taking an avalanche of criticism for a year will be worth it if I have my long-term QB on opening day 2023.

The league doesn’t like the 11-game suspension, but they wouldn’t have liked the continuing soap opera of this story if Watson had been banned for a season. I bet 90 percent of football fans, asked what they think of Watson being banned for 11 weeks with a $5-million fine, would have some significant problem with it. Either it’s too severe, not severe enough, or the league is soft, whatever. All of those positions can be argued. But the league just wanted this to end. Could they, would they have triumphed if the appeals office, Peter Harvey, had banned Watson for the season and the NFLPA fought it in court? Probably. At what cost? Two more months of Watson headlines? No thanks, they thought.

The plan for Watson during his suspension has some question marks. Mileposts along the way: Watson has to have no contact with the team from Aug. 30, when the suspension begins, until Oct. 9. He can return to the Browns facility on Oct. 10 and can be in meetings but can’t practice with the team for the next five weeks. On Nov. 14, 20 days before he is eligible to play, he can begin practicing with the team. I asked coach Kevin Stefanski Sunday about Watson’s work—presumably with private QB coach Quincy Avery—in the 41 days he’s away from the team with no supervision. “We can’t really direct that program,” Stefanski said. “Can’t check in day to day. Can’t watch him throw. He has a really good quarterback coach, Quincy Avery, so I know that they’ll have a plan of attack. It will be important for him to make sure that every day will count for him when it comes to the psychological part of this.”

I got the feeling that Watson will almost certainly start Dec. 4 in Houston, when he’s eligible to play, almost two years since he last played in a game. How ready will he be?

Stefanski: “It’s a totally fair question. There’s not a lot of examples of guys doing this. But Deshaun’s played a lot of football in his life. He’s played in a lot of big games, national championship games, playoff games. I think that he’s a player… that… say this the right way… in his young career, he’s had so many big moments that I think he’ll be ready to go. I’m not naive enough to say there won’t be some rust or whatever it may be because that’s a long time.”

Jacoby Brissett, the temporary QB, seems almost blissfully unaware of the turbulence in the outside world about this, and that’s probably a good thing.

Odd career … Backup to Brady, backup to Luck, successor to Luck, co-starter in Miami, now the 11-game man (probably) in Cleveland. “His career has uniquely prepared him for this,” Stefanski said. Talked to Brissett Sunday. “I never worry about all that stuff on the outside, really,” he said. “I tell myself to stay ready and actually believe it. I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this job. We set a plan when we first started this thing, and we’ve been going along with our plan. That’s why I think you see none of us really stressing with whatever’s going on on the outside.”

The other day, on NFL Network’s morning show “Good Morning Football,” panelist Kyle Brandt called Watson’s denials in a Thursday press conference “the actions of a liar.” He said, as if speaking to Jimmy Haslam: “You’re an enabler.” That’s on the NFL’s channel. It’s not just the outside world attacking the Browns and the Haslams—it’s league-friendly people too.

I formed this opinion over the weekend talking to people on this story … Jimmy Haslam is a big entrepreneur. He’s taken quite a few slings and arrows in his business life, some of them seriously litigious. Deep down, I would not be surprised if, thinking whether he wanted to go after Watson, this went through his mind: I’ve watched team after team build and build and build, and they’ve failed because of one thing—they didn’t have a quarterback. Fabulously successful businessmen—Steven Ross, David Tepper, Woody Johnson—have tried for years to find that guy. Even if we took a torrent of rip jobs, wouldn’t it be worth it if we could get Deshaun Watson? Character witnesses vouched for him. A guy like Haslam is used to looking at the bottom line. If there are rocky patches— even legal and moral ones —on the way to great success, isn’t it all worth it?

That’s the cynical, pragmatic way to look at it. But if Watson doesn’t come through counseling on this tremendous flaw a changed person, and if he doesn’t play great in years two through five of the deal, the decision to trade three first-round picks and to sign him to a ridiculous contract will be viewed in history as a desperate move without a moral compass. I know why the Haslams did it, but they’d better be right.

And that is all up to Deshaun Watson now.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

What to know about Super Bowl 2023: Date, location, halftime performance info, and much more

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The NFL playoffs are in full swing and Super Bowl 2023 will be here before we know it! See below for answers to all of your questions about the big game. Be sure to tune to NBC and Peacock every week for Sunday Night Football games this season and extra content from Mike Florio, Matthew Berry, Chris Simms and more.

RELATED: When do the 2022 NFL Playoffs start: dates, schedule, playoff format, overtime rules, and more

Four teams are left heading into the Conference Championships and only two will make it to Super Bowl LVII. Ahead of this weekend, here’s everything you need to know about the biggest game of the NFL season.

RELATED: 2022 Sunday Night Football Schedule: TV channel, live stream info, NFL schedule

When is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 takes place on Sunday, February 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

Where is Super Bowl 2023?

Super Bowl 2023 will be contested at State Farm Stadium–home of the Arizona Cardinals– in Glendale, Arizona.

Who is performing the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023?

It was announced in September, that international popstar, entrepreneur, and philanthropist Rihanna will headline the halftime show at Super Bowl 2023.

RELATED: How to watch Matthew Berry on NBC Sports

When was the last time Rihanna released an album?

Rihanna’s most recent album “Anti” came out in 2016. The Barbados native has spent the last few years venturing into various business industries including beauty, fashion, and makeup. Additionally, the superstar welcomed her first child, a boy, in May of 2022.

Why does the NFL use Roman numerals?

AFL and Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt proposed using Roman numerals for each Super Bowl to add pomp and gravitas to the game. Roman numerals were, unsurprisingly, used in ancient Rome as a number system. I stands for 1, V for 5, X for 10, L for 50 and C for 100. That’s right: In 2066, get ready for Super Bowl C.

Super Bowl V was the first to use Roman numerals. They were retroactively added to the Super Bowl II to IV logos and have been used each year since⁠ until 2016. For Super Bowl L, or 50, the NFL tried out 73 different logos before breaking down and using a plain old “50.”

The Roman numerals for this year’s big game, Super Bowl 57, are LVII.

Which NFL team has the most Super Bowl wins in NFL history?

The Patriots and Steelers are not only familiar with playing on the big stage, but they also know what it takes to come out on top. New England and Pittsburgh are tied for the most Super Bowl victories in the NFL with six each. The San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys have won five Lombardi Trophies each and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants are tied with four Super Bowl championships.

  • New England Patriots: 6
  • Pittsburgh Steelers: 6
  • San Francisco 49ers: 5
  • Dallas Cowboys: 5
  • Green Bay Packers: 4
  • New York Giants: 4

RELATED: 2022 NFL Regular Season Schedule – How to Watch, Live Stream, Dates, Times, Matchups


How to watch Sunday Night Football on Peacock:

If you have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can watch Sunday Night Football on your TV or with a TV provider login on the NBC Sports app, NBC app, or via NBCSports.com. Check your local listings to find your NBC channel. If you can’t find NBC in your channel lineup, please contact your TV provider.

If you don’t have access to NBC via your TV provider, you can stream Sunday Night Football on Peacock with a $4.99/month Peacock Premium plan.  Sign up here or, if you already have a free Peacock account, go to your Account settings to upgrade or change your existing plan. 

Please note that selection of a Premium plan will result in a charge which will recur on a monthly or annual basis until you cancel, depending on your plan. You can cancel your Premium plan at any time in your Account.

What devices are compatible with Peacock?

Peacock is available on a variety of devices. See the full list here.

In addition to Sunday Night Football, what else can I watch with Peacock Premium?

Premium is your key to unlocking everything Peacock has to offer. You’ll get access to all the live sports and events we have, including Premier League and WWE Premium Live Events like WrestleMania. You’ll also get full seasons of exclusive Peacock Original series, next-day airings of current NBC and Telemundo hits, plus every movie and show available on Peacock. There is always something new to discover on Peacock Premium.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 NFL Season, and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!

2023 NFL Playoffs: What to know about SF QB Brock Purdy Ahead of NFC Championship game

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The NFC crown is up for grabs on Sunday, and it will be Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles squaring off with Brock Purdy and the San Francisco 49ers to secure a ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona. These two high-powered teams have both had seasons for the storybooks, but possibly no story this year has been greater than that of “Mr. Irrelevant’s” emergence.

From the 262nd pick in the draft to a third-string quarterbacking role, the odds of Purdy making a splash in the NFL seemed all but impossible at the start of the season. But just months later, the 23-year-old finds himself captaining one of the league’s most storied franchises on a playoff run in hopes of bringing a sixth Lombardi home to the Bay.

The 49ers will take on the Eagles in the NFC Championship game Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. EST. Let’s take a closer look at Purdy’s emergence from “Mr. Irrelevant” to QB1.

RELATED: 49ers vs. Eagles NFC Championship matchup, series history

Where did Brock Purdy go to college?

Before Purdy was a Niner, he was first an Iowa State Cyclone.

In fact, Purdy rose to stardom in Ames much like he is now doing in San Francisco. Purdy entered the picture at Iowa State as the third-string quarterback, in line for field time behind quarterbacks Kyle Kempt and Zeb Nolan.

The season-opener, however, shook things up. Kempt suffered an MCL injury against Iowa, bumping up Nolan to the role of signal-caller. Nolan then saw a rough three-game stretch, forcing ISU coach Matt Campbell to give the freshman Purdy an opportunity.

Purdy would take this opportunity and run with it. He first entered the scene mid-game against Oklahoma State, leading the Cyclones to a thrilling victory over the Cowboys as they edged them out, 48-42. Purdy was now the man for Iowa State.

In his four-year career, Purdy was simply a winner. He finished his time in Ames as Iowa State’s career leader in passing yards (12,170), total offense (13,347), touchdown passes (81), completions (993), passing efficiency (151.1) and completion percentage (67.7). The wide-eyed freshman with an opportunity developed into the winningest quarterback in Cyclones history (30-17).

RELATED: Eagles DC warned 49ers of ‘electric’ atmosphere at the Linc

Jalen Hurts vs Brock Purdy collegiate record

Sunday’s Conference Championship will not be the first time that Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy have gone head-to-head. The Cyclones faced off with the Oklahoma Sooners in November of 2019.

While the senior Hurts and his offense diced up Iowa State’s defense early, Purdy would charge his team to a comeback from the 35-14 halftime deficit. Purdy led an epic resurgence coming out of the locker room, outscoring the Sooners 27-7. A savvy drive from the sophomore late in the fourth resulted in a 33-yard touchdown to Sean Shaw Jr., cutting the deficit to 42-35 with three minutes remaining.

On the ensuing drive, Hurts made a disastrous mistake, throwing a pass into traffic that was picked off by Lawrence White. With the ball at the Oklahoma 35, Purdy could not be stopped, pulling off a few impressive plays before connecting with Charlie Kolar in the end zone.

The scoreboard now read 42-41, and the Cyclones wanted to end the game right then and there. Purdy dropped back for the two-point conversion, throwing a dart to La’Michael Pettway. The pass hit Pettway’s hands, but was then knocked away by Oklahoma defenders. While the epic comeback could not be completed, it was a game to be remembered.

RELATED: Brock Purdy views time at Iowa State as ‘blessing in disguise’

When was Brock Purdy drafted?

Brock Purdy found a home in San Francisco on Saturday, April 30 when he was selected by the 49ers as the 262nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As Melanie Salata held up the “Mr. Irrelevant” jersey on the NFL Draft stage, no one knew that the name on the back of it would rise to relevance so quickly.

The seventh-round pick was passed over by nearly every NFL team, except for one. Not even the 49ers knew that this selection would hold so much magnitude, as Purdy was merely expected to be a third-string rookie sitting behind starter Trey Lance and backup Nate Sudfeld.

RELATED: CMC vows to be ready for NFC title game despite calf discomfort

How has Brock Purdy fared as an NFL starter?

San Francisco’s blueprint at the beginning of the season would be thrown out the door very quickly. The 49ers made the decision in late August to retain veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and release Sudfeld, allowing Purdy to remain in his third-string role.

When Lance suffered a crushing injury against the Seahawks in just the second game of the season, it seemed clear that Garoppolo was destined to lead the team to its third playoff appearance in four years. Garoppolo would go 6-3 in his next nine starts, making Super Bowl aspirations once again very real for the team that lost the big game just three years prior.

In a critical battle against the Miami Dolphins in Week 12, however, that vision faded. Garoppolo suffered a broken foot on the final play of the team’s opening drive, and “Mr. Irrelevant” was now QB1.

Purdy’s first drive of the game ended in a 3-yard touchdown pass to fullback Kyle Juszczyk to give San Francisco a 10-7 lead. As with his starting role in Iowa State, Purdy has yet to look back.

RELATED: Brock Purdy’s PFF grades show how well he operates under pressure

He drove the team to a 33-17 victory over Miami, finishing the day 25 for 37 for 210 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His starting debut came the next week, against none other than the great Tom Brady.

The rookie tore through Tampa Bay, becoming the first quarterback to ever defeat Brady in his first start. The game ended with an emotional hug from his father, who had witnessed his son take down a quarterback who has been playing pro football longer than Brock has been alive.

Purdy remains undefeated as an NFL starter. Since taking over in Week 13, “Mr. Irrelevant” has gone 7-0, with an overtime victory and two playoff triumphs. While many thought the rookie would crumble under postseason pressure, he has yet to let his team down. In the 49ers wild card battle against their division foe Seattle Seahawks, he became the first NFL rookie to score four touchdowns in a playoff game. While the divisional round success over Dallas wasn’t the prettiest victory, Purdy got the job done, advancing his team to the NFC Championship for the second consecutive year.

Will Brock Purdy play in NFC Championship game?

Now, the seventh rounder will clash with a daunting Philadelphia defense for the conference crown, with aspirations of becoming the first rookie quarterback to ever hoist a Lombardi. On Monday ahead of the Conference Championships, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told media that he’d be “very surprised” if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was able to play in Sunday’s game, meaning that Purdy is still QB1, with Josh Johnson as the backup.

RELATED: When was the last time the 49ers made it to, won the Super Bowl?

Has a rookie QB ever started in a Super Bowl?

Should the 49ers advance to the Super Bowl, Purdy has a shot to cap an unbelievable season with a particularly remarkable accomplishment: No rookie quarterback has won a Super Bowl, and in fact, no rookie quarterback has ever started in a Super Bowl.

RELATED: Ranking potential Super Bowl LVII matchups

How to watch the Super Bowl 2023

Check out ProFootballTalk for more on the 2023 NFL Playoffs as well as game previews, picks, recaps, news, rumors and more.