NFL

QB Jacoby Brissett ready to be ‘next man up’ for Browns following Deshaun Watson suspension

Following the six-game suspension of Deshaun Watson for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, attention now turns to his temporary on-field replacement — one who could play a major role for the Cleveland Browns this season.

Jacoby Brissett figures to assume the starting QB role in Watson’s absence (the NFL has until Thursday morning to appeal disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson’s decision, while the NFL Players Association previously announced it would not appeal the ruling).

Brissett, 29, has started games previously for three different franchises, including five games last season with the Dolphins while replacing an injured Tua Tagovailoa. He also started 30 games in four seasons with the Colts and helped replace a suspended Tom Brady early in the 2016 NFL season with the Patriots.

Getting thrown into the mix is nothing new. Brissett was forced to start early as a rookie when Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt during Brady’s four-game suspension. A year later he was traded to Indianapolis in August after Andrew Luck’s injury situation worsened and Brissett eventually started 15 games for the Colts that season.

The Browns have prepped for a potential Watson suspension for months now, and Brissett is the expected understudy in Cleveland. He says he’s prepared for the job.

“Since I’ve been in this league it’s been the next man up,” Brissett said Tuesday. “That was the case my rookie year, so that experience helps with not only the playing but with the mindset of understanding that you’ve got to be ready whenever your number is called.”

He added: “It feels good that you have that trust amongst the organization. I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Watson had received the bulk of the first-team reps at Browns camp prior to Monday’s six-game suspension, but that should change now that the decision has come down. Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski said Brissett has made a strong early impression after joining the team this offseason and that his past experience as a fill-in was considered a big plus to the team.

“He’s been in some different positions already in his young career,” Stefanski said. “He has a very good way about him. Very, very intelligent. Very good leader. Has the ability to make plays on the practice field, help in the meeting room. Be accountable throughout the weight room. He just does all the right things.”

It’s a tense time for the Browns. The Watson situation has cloaked the franchise in negativity for months and likely will continue to do so while it continues to play out through Watson’s eventual return — and beyond.

Perhaps the affable Brissett could be a solid antidote for the situation. Asked what it would feel like to give up his starting job after he leads the Browns to a 6-0 record, Brissett said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we cross that bridge.”

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