Denzel Ward missed three games with the third concussion of his five-year NFL career. He said he is unconcerned about the long-term effects of the brain injuries. (TheLandOnDemand)
Denzel Ward happy and excited to exit concussion protocol in time to play against Miami’s Tyreek Hill
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.
Takeaways from Browns practice and interviews …
Denzel Ward emerged from concussion protocol on Thursday, stepped behind the podium in the Browns’ locker room, looked at the daily media scrum ready to toss him some questions, and said with a big smile, “I’m glad to see you guys.”
So you know it must really be a drag to get stuck in concussion protocol for a month.
“It’s been rough,” Ward said.
Ward suffered the third concussion of his five-year NFL career in Game 5 against the Chargers on Oct. 9. He hit his head on the ground after making a tackle on running back Austin Ekeler. His concussion was diagnosed on the sideline.
Ward said he only started feeling normal “a little while ago.”
“Throughout that whole time, I was having headaches like every day,” he said. “In the protocol, if you’re having any symptoms you’re not able to progress. I was kind of concerned a little bit, just [wondering] ‘When are these headaches going to go away? When am I going to start feeling better?’ I was able to overcome that and I’m glad to be here now.”
The good news is Ward declared himself ready to play Sunday in Miami against the Dolphins.
The bad news is Ward’s first assignment is runaway NFL receiving leader Tyreek Hill, whose Twitter handle appropriately is @cheetah.
“He’s probably the fastest in the league, for sure,” said Browns receiver Amari Cooper.
Ward and Greg Newsome will be reunited for the first time in a month to defend Miami’s incomparable receiving duo of Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Their 1,918 combined receiving yards are the most by a pair of teammates in the first nine games in the Super Bowl era.
“It’s exciting, it’s fun,” Ward said. “This is a game that I love to play. I’m looking forward to going against those guys. These are games you make a name for yourself.”
Ward, 25, missed three games with two concussions in his rookie season of 2018 and missed three this time with his third concussion. He said he is not worried about the long-term effects of the injuries.
“I’m not too concerned about it,” he said. “It’s not affecting me right now, so I’m good. I do want to take care of my health and make sure I’m good and try to do the things I can to prevent it from happening again and just keep my health. I think I’m good, though.”
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods is happy to have Ward back in time to play against Hill.
“I feel confident in all of the guys we have back there, but to add that element of speed and somebody who has played against Tyreek in the past, it definitely gives you confidence,” Woods said. “I think there are certain things that I will be able to do coverage-wise knowing that [Ward] can go match up at times.”
Ward has faced Hill two times when he played with the Kansas City Chiefs, and the results were not good.
“We didn’t get the wins, so it didn’t go that great,” Ward said.
In the AFC divisional playoff game following the 2020 season, Hill had eight catches on 10 targets for 110 yards. His short catch from backup quarterback Chad Henne on fourth-and-1 with 1:14 left sealed the Chiefs’ 22-17 playoff win. The teams then opened the 2021 season in Kansas City. Hill had 11 catches on 15 targets for 197 yards and one touchdown in the Chiefs’ 33-29 win.
It’s not looking good for tight end David Njoku (high ankle) and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (knee). Neither was cleared to practice again, so it’s doubtful either would be available Sunday …
Special teams coach Mike Priefer attributed the second field-goal block in two games to low elevation by kicker Cade York against the Bengals. The fact York came back to bomb a 55-yarder at the end of the first half made everyone feel a lot better. “Not many kickers, especially at his level of experience and his age, misses a kick early and goes out and hits a 55-yarder that could have been good from who knows how long. He crushed that ball,” Priefer said. York is now 3 of 6 from field goals 50+. That’s a lot of long tries through eight games for a rookie kicker. Priefer pointed out that Patriots coach Bill Belichick tried only one field goal of 50 yards in the rookie season of Stephen Gostkowski (he made it from 52 yards on the final play of a first half). “Cade is a unique young man that he can handle those misses and come back like he showed on Monday night,” Priefer said …
Offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt effusively praised quarterback Jacoby Brissett. “I think he has been outstanding for us. I know he has had some tough turnovers in some spots that he would like to have back, but he is playing at a high level for us. I thought his game last week was exceptional. He is just consistent. Just putting that together each week and finding a way to hold onto that ball in a bad pocket, which happens occasionally. Really proud of the way he has stepped up. Really proud of the way he has led this team. That is another thing that doesn’t get talked about enough. He is very vocal, he is a strong leader and guys follow him. It has been outstanding.” Van Pelt termed it “good-bad” that the Brissett will relinquish the reins to Deshaun Watson after three more games. “It is tough, but it is good. We are going to have two really good players that we feel comfortable we can win a lot of games with,” Van Pelt said.