NFL Football

Browns trusting QB Brissett while Watson serves suspension

(AP Photo/David Dermer)

By TOM WITHERS

AP Sports Writer

BEREA, Ohio (AP) As Jacoby Brissett sat at a nearby table patiently waiting for his turn at the podium Friday, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah wrapped up his interview session with some strong praise for his veteran teammate.

During chats sitting in front of their side-by-side lockers, Owusu-Koramoah has learned about life and football from Brissett.

"He's the guy that we look to for that elder wisdom," said Owusu-Koramoah. "The shaman."

The Browns are going to need more than just knowledge from Brissett.

With Deshaun Watson's suspension now official and slated for 11 games, Brissett, who has spent his NFL career as a fill-in quarterback, will try to keep Cleveland's promising season afloat.

Brissett signed a one-year contract as a free agent with Cleveland in March - one day after the team traded for Watson - knowing there was a strong chance he would begin the season as the starter.

However, it wasn't until Thursday, when W atson agreed to a settlement with the NFL to sit 11 games and pay $5 million for allegations of sexual misconduct made against him by two dozen women, that Brissett knew for how long.

Whether it was six games or 17, Brissett vowed to be ready and now he's being called upon.

The Browns are placing their trust in Brissett, who has made 37 career starts with New England (2), Indianapolis (30) and Miami (5), to keep them competitive in the AFC North before Watson is eligible to return in late November.

It's a tough ask for the 29-year-old, who is just 14-23 as a starter. But his teammates are confident he can handle it, and owner Jimmy Haslam, general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski all offered their support after Watson's suspension became known.

"I got to go out there and prove that every day, right?" Brissett said of the belief in him. "I'm just excited for the opportunity. I don't take it lightly."

The Watson suspension hasn't changed Brissett's approach, and he said he's not concerned about outside chatter involving the Browns' interest in trading for Jimmy Garoppolo or living up to Super Bowl expectations.

When Garoppolo's name was mentioned as part of a question, Brissett cracked a smile.

"I could care less," he said before the Browns practiced for the second day against the Philadelphia Eagles. "Here to do my job, do the best I can, lead, be the same guy, be a good teammate and then everything else will take care of itself."

Brissett has won over teammates with his steadiness, work ethic and engaging personality. He prides himself on being consistent in everything.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper, another of Cleveland's newcomers, has watched Brissett lead by example.

"We know Jacoby," Cooper said. "We understand what he brings to the table. We see him practice every day, see how hard he works, so we 100% believe in him. He wouldn't be back there if we didn't."

None of this is new to Brissett.

He made his debut as a rookie with the Patriots earlier than planned after Tom Brady was suspended for "Deflategate" in 2016 and Garoppolo was injured. The next season with the Colts, Brissett was thrust into the lineup when Andrew Luck suffered a season-ending injury.

And in 2019, he became Indy's starter by default following Luck's surprising retirement.

"It's just given me experience in these situations," Brissett said. "That's been the key, and since I've gotten in the league it's shown me how fast this league is in being the next man up and being ready whenever your number is called."

Count Eagles coach Nick Sirianni among Brissett's biggest fans.

Sirianni was Brissett's offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, where he bonded with the QB, who made an impact on his entire family.

"He's the best. My kids still ask, `How's Jacoby doing?' My wife still asks about him," Sirianni said. "He's just a great leader and a great guy to be around. Such a good teammate."

And, as far as Sirianni's concerned, an underrated player.

Mimicking Brissett dropping back to pass, he broke down a play in a 2019 game against Denver. Sirianni said after discarding sack specialist Vonn Miller at the start of a game-winning drive near his own goal line, Brissett scrambled and fired a 40-yard "tight rope" to receiver T.Y. Hilton.

"I just can't say enough good things about Jacoby Brissett," Sirianni said. "I love the man."

NOTES: All-Pro Myles Garrett returned after missing four days while visiting an ill family member. Garrett did individual work but didn't participate in any of the team sessions against the Eagles. ... Browns LT Jedrick Wills had a rough few plays during the two-minute drill, getting called for at least two penalties before being pulled. ... Stefanski said Josh Dobbs remains ahead of Josh Rosen to be Brissett's backup.

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Updated August 19, 2022

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