With rampant speculation that appeals officer Peter Harvey may suspend Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson indefinitely before Friday night, blocking him from playing in the preseason opener at Jacksonville, the Browns made a compelling chess move.
They announced on Wednesday that Watson will start the Week One preseason game.
It left zero doubt about Cleveland’s plans, even though the team had no obligation to tell anyone what they intend to do. And it feels like an effort by the Browns to dare Harvey to act sooner than later, so that the Browns will be able to plan accordingly.
Harvey may be waiting as long as possible to issue a suspension that would block Watson from playing Friday night, given the possibility that the NFL Players Association will rush to court for an order allowing Watson to play. If, for example, Harvey issues his ruling just before 5:00 pm ET on Friday, the NFLPA will have roughly 120 minutes to get a temporary restraining order.
Regardless, everyone now knows that Watson will play on Friday night. Unless Harvey decides that he can’t — and if the NFLPA is unable to block the enforcement of that ruling in court.