Browns Veteran Defender Sounds Off on Deshaun Watson’s Tenure With Team

Getty Anthony Walker #4 of the Cleveland Browns celebrates with teammates after breaking up a pass in the first half of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Things are a lot different in the Cleveland Browns locker room than they were down the stretch of the 2021 regular season. Perhaps the most impactful change has been the presence of controversial quarterback Deshaun Watson.

First, the organization lured Watson to Cleveland with the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history, extending his standing deal with the Houston Texans to five years and $230 million. That did plenty to turn heads on its own when compounded by the fact that he was brought in to replace four-year starter Baker Mayfield.

That Watson was also facing 22 civil cases alleging sexual misconduct when that agreement was made, and is now facing 23 cases with a 24th reported to be on the way, has made the Browns’ decision polarizing from both moral and football perspectives.

But, support it or not, the deal is done and always will be. Cleveland fans who remain in the Browns camp and the players suiting up every day in the locker room need to reconcile that fact however they can. One such player is linebacker Anthony Walker Jr., who shared something with Watson aside from competition in the AFC South Division before the two ever became teammates — a jersey number.

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Walker, Browns Focused on Football When it Comes to Watson

Deshaun Watson, Cleveland Browns

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson of the Cleveland Browns is introduced by general manager Andrew Berry (left) and head coach Kevin Stefanski (right) during a press conference at CrossCountry Mortgage Campus on March 25, 2022 in Berea, Ohio. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)

Walker made the decision to welcome Watson with open arms, offering the Browns new quarterback his old jersey number unsolicited in a text message after news that Watson was heading to Cleveland.

Walker, entering his sixth year in the NFL and second with the Browns following a four-year stint with the Indianapolis Colts, explained his reasoning to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal in a piece published Sunday, June 5.

For me, just allow him to be himself around us. I think that’s with everybody in the locker room. Deshaun, playing against him for four years, understanding the player that he is, I understand that he’s a winner, and he’s a leader on the field. With him coming into the locker room, it was like, ‘This is your team,’ and I’m pretty sure everybody thought that way. There was no doubt in my mind that guys welcomed him with open arms.

Outside of football, that’s not stuff we can comment on, but obviously being in the locker room with him every day, seeing him come to work every day and show up and be present in the moment and be the leader that we expect him to be as a quarterback, yeah, he’s been all of that.

As for Watson’s response to Walker’s generosity, Ulrich reported that the quarterback pledged $50,000 to the high school program in South Florida coached by Walker’s father.

“I’m pretty sure he dropped a tear,” Walker said of his father’s reaction.

Watson also bought Walker a Rolex watch and pledged to buy him game day suits for the upcoming season.

“All the gestures that he did were very meaningful to me,” Walker told Ulrich. “I don’t know how he got those ideas.”

Watson Adds Pro-Bowl Talent For Browns Under Center

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

GettyQuarterback Deshaun Watson, formerly of the Houston Texans, looks to pass during the first half against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium on January 3, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

Acts of kindness and generosity, despite being born of money, have helped endear Watson to the Browns locker room. The general culture of camaraderie in football and the benefits of separating business from personal, as well as on-the-field from off-the field, have probably also helped Watson with the interpersonal transition to a new team despite the ugly allegations he continues to face.

What may also help is the kind of upgrade Watson can offer once he actually takes the field. When that will be precisely is hard to say, as an NFL investigation into the allegations against Watson remains open with some type of punishment expected to come down this summer. A suspension is likely despite Watson being cleared by grand juries in two Texas counties of any criminal charges in 10 of the alleged instances — leaving only the 24 civil matters now to be addressed.

Watson sat out the entirety of the 2021 regular season, though not due to any suspensions from the league. The choice was made solely at the discretion of the Texans and Watson received his full paycheck for the year, despite never taking a snap.

However, the quarterback played four seasons in Houston prior to that, earning trips to the Pro Bowl in each of his previous three campaigns. He threw for a total of 14,539 yards over that duration, leading the NFL in passing yards two years ago with 4,823. Watson has also thrown 104 TD passes as opposed to just 36 INTs during the course of his career, per Pro Football Reference.

A dual threat on the ground as well as through the air, Watson has also ran the ball for a total of 1,677 yards and 17 TDs across four seasons.

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