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Deshaun Watson understands why he is flying under the radar but calls himself “very motivated”

Mike Florio and Chris Simms set expectations for Deshaun Watson next season, given the Browns need a big year from the QB to show he was worth everything Cleveland gave up to get him.

For Deshaun Watson, the best thing about this year is it isn’t last year.

He has served an 11-game suspension and settled 23 of the 25 civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual misconduct during massage sessions. He has spent a year in Cleveland and has six games with the Browns under his belt, knocking off the rust from not playing football in a long time.

“I feel a lot better,” Watson said Tuesday at the team’s charity golf outing, via Dan Labbe of “I mean, I think you guys can see it, too, in just the way I’m speaking, the way I kind of react with other people around here.”

Watson recently called the difference between last year and this year as a “night-and-day difference.”

Watson had not played a game in 23 months when he returned to the field Dec. 4, 2022. He did not play like a quarterback worthy of the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history, throwing for 1,102 passing yards, seven touchdowns, five interceptions and posting a 3-3 record in six starts.

“Last year was a weird situation where everything was new and a lot going on,” Watson said, “but having a fresh start, having a year behind me and being able to be around people that support me and love me for who I am is definitely great.”

Watson said he is regaining his confidence and “getting back to [being] Deshaun Watson.”

It has been a long time since Watson ranked as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. He was a Pro Bowl quarterback in 2020 despite the Texans winning only four games.

“I’m very motivated,” Watson said. “I’m very excited to be able to have the opportunities to go out there and prove what I have before and even better. And that’s the goal, is to be better than when people last saw me.”

No one is talking about Watson or the Browns. His name is not anywhere in the conversation of the league’s top quarterbacks, and in a conference of Pro Bowl quarterbacks, the Browns aren’t among the favorites to win the AFC.

But if Watson can return to playing like he did in Houston, the Browns might surprise.

“I missed two years of football, so if I was in their shoes, I wouldn’t put myself in that position either,” Watson said. “I’ve got to go out there and prove it and that’s what I’m looking forward to. So those opportunities for me this upcoming season, I have to take advantage of it.”