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Denzel Ward gets things done quickly.
One of the rookie cornerback’s first goals was to earn a starting job. Check. Next was paying off the mortgage on his mom’s house. Check. Then it was signing his NFL contract and reporting to training camp on time. Done.
Now he wants to help the Browns win. OK [url=http://www.officialwild.com/authentic-adidas-eric-staal-jersey]Adidas Eric Staal Jersey[/url] , that may take a minute.
But to this point, nothing has slowed the speedy Ward, who has impressed his teammates and Cleveland’s coaches. After an eye-popping spring camp, the former Ohio State All-American has joined the first-team defense, and the Browns believe the 21-year-old is ready for the weekly challenge of covering elite wide receivers.
Ward’s up for it.
”I’m very comfortable in who I am as a player,” he said Friday without the slightest trace of arrogance. ”I’m a fast player.”
While Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback selected first overall by the Browns, waits his turn behind Tyrod Taylor, Ward’s already on the field.
And there’s no reason to think he won’t stay there.
Ward stood out during the Browns’ first training camp practice on Thursday with several solid plays. He made a leaping interception down the sideline in front of three-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry during 11-on-11 drills, and Ward looked comfortable whether in goal-line situations or third-and-longs.
He did get beat on a go route by fellow rookie Antonio Callaway, who made a late adjustment to haul in a deep pass from Mayfield.
The catch drew applause from Browns fans, but Ward said the reception probably wouldn’t have counted in a game.
”I think he stepped out of bounds,” Ward said, smiling. ”They caught it with the camera from over here [url=http://www.pantherscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-marquis-haynes-jersey]Authentic Marquis Haynes Jersey[/url] , so they didn’t really see it, but that was a great catch. He can definitely run.”
So can Ward, whose quickness and ability to play man-to-man ”press” coverage is what made him so appealing to the Browns, who surprised many draft experts by taking him so high after he was projected to be picked later in the first round.
His high profile notwithstanding, Ward has shown a willingness to work and improve since the day he arrived.
”He’s pretty quiet off the field,” said linebacker Christian Kirksey. ”He’s not a person that is going to sit there and just talk all day. He’s going to do his job. He’s going to do it to the best of his ability. He’s very coachable. I believe that once he really gets comfortable with his role of being a lockdown corner, I think that the sky’s the limit for him.”
Ward has immersed himself in Cleveland’s playbook, and beyond watching daily practice film, he’s been taking a peek at tape of some future opponents.
The Browns open the season on Sept. 9 against Pittsburgh, which means Ward will make his regular-season debut against Steelers star Antonio Brown, widely considered the league’s best all-around receiver.
”The game’s not too big for him,” coach Hue Jackson said. ”Those moments are not too big for him. He’s going to face some of the best receivers in the league. Think of the first game of the year, playing Antonio Brown, the best guy on the planet. So you better have real thick skin [url=http://www.coltsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-nyheim-hines-jersey]http://www.coltsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-nyheim-hines-jersey[/url] , and he has that.”
It’s helped Ward to prepare for Brown that he’s been going head-to-head with Landry and Josh Gordon, who is currently away from the team to address health problems.
Ward said he’s not intimidated by any matchup.
”Those guys are elite players, great guys and players,” Ward said. ”But we all put our shoes and pants on the same way, and just come out here and work.”
Ward was the final member of Cleveland’s rookie class to sign, finalizing his four-year, $29 million contract on Wednesday a day before players reported.
The deal includes a $19 million signing bonus, and the financial security prompted Ward, who grew up just outside Cleveland, to pay off the mortgage for his mother, Nicole. Ward’s father, Paul, died two years ago.
”My mom has done a lot for me,” he said. ”So whatever I can do to make things easier for my mom [url=http://www.pittsburghsteelersteamstore.com/james-washington-jersey]Authentic James Washington Jersey[/url] , I’m down to do it.”
He has everything covered.
NOTES: Greg Robinson, competing with Shon Coleman to replace Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas, was carted off with a head injury and will be evaluated. … LB Mychal Kendricks participated in team drills for the first time since undergoing offseason ankle surgery. He was signed as a free agent in June after winning a Super Bowl with Philadelphia. … The team signed DL Zaycoven Henderson and WR Blake Jackson.
Coach Vance Joseph said he doesn't expect defensive end Derek Wolfe to miss any time after sustaining a neck stinger at practice Tuesday.
"He should not. He came back to practice. So, he should be ready to go tomorrow," Joseph said.
Wolfe had surgery this offseason after dealing with neck problems off and on since 2013 , when he got hurt in a preseason game at Seattle.
Joseph described the latest scare as "a little small stinger," adding, "he's fine. He came back out. He's OK."
Left guard Ron Leary tried to calm Wolfe as he retreated to the sideline to get checked out.
"Wolfe's just a real passionate guy, so he always wants to be out there and anytime he gets a nick and can't perform, he's heated," Leary said. "And Wolfe don't listen to too many people. But I've known him for a while and he knows it's all love when it comes from me. So, it was a good little convo."
Wolfe has dealt with neck issues ever since being whisked from the field in an ambulance after a hit to his head and neck in a preseason game in Seattle five years ago. Later in the 2013 season he suffered seizure-like symptoms on his way to a game and missed the team's Super Bowl run.
Wolfe also missed two games in 2016 because of a sore neck and last year he went on IR after injuring his neck in a game against Oakland on Nov. 26.
Just last weekend Wolfe spoke about how nice it was to play without neck pain and muscle weakness following his offseason surgery, which allowed him to hit the weights with extra fervor.
"You get to focus on your technique more because you're not worried about protecting yourself. You open your game to a lot more, especially pass-rush wise [url=http://www.falconsfootballauthentics.com/deadrin-senat-jersey-authentic]Youth Deadrin Senat Jersey[/url] ," Wolfe said Saturday. "You don't have to worry about if that center comes and hits you in that right side, 'Oh, I'm going to lose that feeling in my right arm so I have to protect it.' When you can really work your pass-rushing moves all the way through, it changes your game."
Notes: ILB Brandon Marshall (sore wrist) will return to contact drills Wednesday. ... LT Garett Bolles returned to practice one day after being carted off and examined for a head injury. ... CB Bradley Roby, who's stepping into a fulltime starter's role following the trade of Aqib Talib, got some friendly advice from Joseph heading into camp: "I told Bradley, 'I don't want to judge you on how many plays you make; you're judged on how many plays you give up.' That's what I want from our corners. And if you're in a good position, you'll make enough plays. But don't cheat in order to make plays because that's not what winning's about. That's about you.' So, he's doing a good job playing within the scheme and playing with good technique and just doing his job."
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