Watson will officially be reinstated this afternoon, but he's been able to participate in all team activities since Nov. 14 anyway. Of course, he couldn't play in any games, but over the past two-plus weeks he's been in every practice and meeting room with his teammates.
The NFL and Watson reached an agreement on an 11-game suspension back in August following sexual misconduct allegations against Watson from more than two dozen massage therapists. Watson was never criminally charged and settled the majority of the civil cases against him.
The 4-7 Browns will give Watson all the first-team reps this week in preparation for their road game against the Houston Texans on Sunday. It will be Watson's first regular-season action in 700 days after he sat out the 2021 season in Houston.
Why Packers should go with Jordan Love
The injuries Aaron Rodgers has sustained in a lost season make it clear that there's no good football reason to prevent the Green Bay Packers from turning to Jordan Love for the rest of the season.
The 4-8 Packers are mathematically still in playoff contention, but those odds will evaporate within 2-3 weeks. Rodgers has been dealing with a bum finger on his throwing hand, and he suffered a rib injury in Sunday night's loss to the Eagles that requires further evaluation Monday.
Love stepped into the game and played as well as we've seen him play in the NFL in his career. He went 6-of-9 for 113 yards, including a catch-and-run touchdown to rookie Christian Watson to keep the Packers in it midway through the fourth quarter.
Love's only previous experience that wasn't spot duty came last season when Rodgers was out due to COVID protocols. He had a challenging day against the Chiefs with little practice time with the first-team offense and completed 56 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception.
Packers GM Brian Gutekunst famously drafted Love in the first round of the 2020 draft, bypassing a skill-position player who could get the team over the NFC title game hump for who the Packers clearly thought could be the quarterback of the future. Rodgers went on to win consecutive MVP awards and Love hasn't been needed in two and a half seasons.
The only reason to trot Rodgers out there in Week 13 is for him to start, play and win in Chicago. Rodgers owns the Bears (as he's let the city know) and the Packers can overtake Chicago as the all-time winningest team in NFL regular season history with a victory next week.
But the development of Love is more important to this year's Packers and future Packers teams. Gutekunst has to see what he has in Love and whether he can be the guy they thought he would be in 2020. This gives the team the perfect opportunity to give Love the first-team reps this week, face the Bears and then head into the bye week with a plan to see what the kid's got.
More Week 12 insider notes
- A deft decision by Robert Saleh to make the move to Mike White. He did so against a team with a struggling defense who would very likely be without their starting quarterback this past week in the Bears. White nearly posted a perfect passer rating in the win and that was one of the happiest locker rooms we've seen in the NFL all season. He's going to ride the hot hand, and don't be surprised if we don't see Zach Wilson again this year.
- Jalen Hurts is the only reason the Associated Press hasn't commissioned its engraver to start writing P-A-T-R-I-C-K on the NFL MVP award just yet. Mahomes is clearly the runaway favorite to win his second MVP and it's not particularly close. But Jalen Hurts plays an inspired brand of football, melding his athleticism with top-tier intelligence on the field.
- Panthers interim head coach Steve Wilks is coming off another big home win and heading into the bye week with Sam Darnold as his starter. For the questions the Panthers seem to be answering right now, more keep coming. I noted yesterday on That Other Pregame Show that former head coach Matt Rhule could take some of his assistants with him to Nebraska, and top Panthers beat man Joe Person reported Sunday night that two assistants were already leaving with more to potentially come. Wilks had already let go of four previous assistants since taking the job, so now the total loss is a half dozen with more potentially on the way.
- When will the Saints turn to Jameis Winston? They were always going to have a tough time against the 49ers defense and we have to understand that. But Winston is healthy and Andy Dalton's gotten his fair shake to prove himself as the worthy QB1. I don't know that Winston should take that title for the rest of the season, but Dalton's play hasn't warranted keeping him in that position this week against the Buccaneers.