In His Seventh Nfl Season, Denzel Ward Relishes Role As A Team Leader, And He’S Having An Impact

Denzel Ward is leading and Martin Emerson is following everything the 3-time Pro Bowler does. (TheLandOnDemand)

Denzel Ward is leading and Martin Emerson is following everything the 3-time Pro Bowler does. (TheLandOnDemand)

In his seventh NFL season, Denzel Ward relishes role as a team leader, and he’s having an impact

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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for and 850 ESPN Cleveland. He has covered the Browns since 1984.

Takeaways from Day 2 of Browns mandatory minicamp …

We make so much of the players skipping voluntary OTAs or holding out from mandatory minicamp. We need more attention on a player like Denzel Ward.

Macedonia-born and raised. Nordonia High School. Ohio State. First-round draft pick. Three-time Pro Bowler.

In 2022, Ward achieved what once was unfathomable for a cornerback – a contract for $100 million. Three years into that five-year deal, Ward’s contract still ranks No. 2 in average per year dollars for a cornerback.

If anyone has made it, it’s Ward. At the age of 27 and entering his seventh NFL season, Ward is in his athletic prime. And yet, he never missed a day of the 10-week voluntary offseason program. Not one.

Why not?

“Because I think the Browns, they drafted me to be on this team,” Ward said. “They drafted me to be a leader on this team, and that’s the way that I show my leadership – coming to OTAs. Regardless of if I’m here [now], I’m a rookie, or if I’m a veteran in the league, I just try to come in and help show the guys what it’s supposed to look like and how it’s supposed to go and if they got questions.

“But I’m still out here working on my game as well, and I mean, what better way than to come out here and do that with your guys and your coaches and everything? So just out here learning, out here trying to get better, but just trying to set a great example.

“I think it brings us all together, brings us all in, and they see a veteran like myself come in. I think they look like, ‘OK, if he’s in here, I probably should come back as well and get some work in with everybody.’ So, I just try to set a great example, and those guys, they teach me as well. So, it’s not just myself that’s out there just trying to coach them up or be the lead person, but I mean they coach me up as well, and we help each other out.”

How leadership works

One player that followed Ward from the start of his Browns career is Martin Emerson.

As a rookie, Emerson noticed Ward was the only player to wear his helmet during walk-throughs. So he started doing it, too. It was symbolic of taking everything seriously when on the field of work.

After his first year, Emerson hooked up with Ward for offseason workouts at XPE Sports in Fort Lauderdale, FL. This year, Ward invited Emerson to room with him during training.

“Martin, he’s been following me everywhere this offseason,” Ward said. “He lived with me out in Florida, and we worked out every single day together, and we’re just working our techniques and everything, lifting and getting better. So, he’s been on my hip.”

Emerson treasures following Ward’s path in the NFL.

“I’m a student of the game and I respect greatness,” Emerson said. “He’s been in this game multiple years. And his knowledge. He’s my big brother. He gave me the game, so I’m gonna soak it up. Take it all in and just apply it to my game.

“He does everything the right way. He’s here every day in OTAs. He’s like the perfect role model.”

I asked Emerson if he’ll do the same as Ward after he earns Pro Bowl berths and his second contract.

“I ain’t missing [OTAs],” he said. “I’m a team player, so I feel like why wouldn’t I be here with my team? That’s how I look at it.”

Emerson led the Browns with four interceptions last year in his second NFL season. His goal in Year 3 simply is to “take the next step” as an overall player.

Ward said, “He’s a special player. Got high talent. Physical player, tall. I mean, he got the capability of achieving a lot of things in his league. Being an All-Pro type of player and a number one corner.”

Myles is all-in

Myles Garrett actually did volunteer to play on Bubba Ventrone’s revamped kickoff teams. Although there’s no movement just yet to find the right role for Garrett.

“Whatever we need,” Garrett said. “I’ll return it. I’ll go down there and smack something. It’s whatever. Wherever they place me.”

Fact is, Garrett is a fan of the big-play possibilities in the new hybrid kickoff format.

“It’s definitely going to be a game changer more often than not, actually more often than recent years,” he said. “So everybody’s going to be on their P’s and Q’s. There are going to be those different strategies you see throughout the season with different teams, but it’s going to be a lot more exciting, and fans are really going to get a kick out of it.”

Brownie bits

Receiver Amari Cooper remained absent to demonstrate his desire for a new contract, extending a mandatory fine to $50,861 for missing two days of minicamp in an unexcused absence …

Tight end David Njoku’s take on Cooper’s holdout: “I haven’t talked to him yet. I mean, honestly speaking, it is what it is. At the end of the day, he has his reasons. I’m sure the Browns are in conversation, you know, with them. I’m sure they’re communicating, so I’m not really too worried about it. Like, as long as he’s there by September week one, that’s all we got to worry about.”

Receiver Jerry Jeudy appeared on the field, but only worked out on the side with other idled players. Jeudy is nursing an undisclosed injury …

As expected, Deshaun Watson did not participate in the 7-on-7 throwing period, but he did throw on air prior to that. Watson is scheduled to throw again on the final day of minicamp …

For the first time since ending his rookie season with a hip injury, Dorian Thompson-Robinson received reps in the 7-on-7 period …

Coach Kevin Stefanski invited Jim Donovan, play-by-play Voice of the Browns and recently retired WKYC Channel 3 sports director, to break down the team after practice. Donovan told the entire squad, “I love you guys. Let’s have a big, big year,” and they joined him in “1-2-3, all the way!”