Ward suffered a concussion in the Browns’ preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs. He remains in the protocol more than a week later, which is troublesome considering his history of concussions. He’s missed multiple games over his career due to concussions.
The Browns didn’t have any good news after Ward missed practice.
“No update,” Stefanski said. “I’d say Denzel’s in the protocol. We just have to work through that to see how it goes. We know what type of challenge this is. It’s a huge challenge. They’ve got great players, really good coaches. We know what you’re getting into.”
Ward — a two-time Pro Bowler — was handed a lucrative five-year extension by the Browns in April of 2022, making him one of the highest-paid players at his position. When healthy, he’s one of the best cover cornerbacks in the league, which would be helpful in Week 1 against the likes of Ja’Maar Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd. However, staying on the field has been a challenge for Ward. He’s never played a complete season during his five years in the league.
Browns Veteran Rodney McLeod Hopeful Denzel Ward Will Play
Stefanski didn’t have much to say on Ward but defensive teammate Rodney McLeod is more hopeful that the team’s Pro Bowl cornerback will be cleared in time to play against the Bengals.
“I think we’re encouraged that he will be available for us,” McLeod said, “so we’re allowing Denzel to take the time necessary, the doctors to do their job and hoping that he’s there when we need him. When he’s on the field, he’s a weapon for us. Somebody who we need come Sunday in order for us to have great success. But if he’s not, it’s next man up. We hold everybody to the same standard and expect the same results.”
Fortunately for the Browns, they have three solid options at cornerback in Ward, Greg Newsome and second-year standout Martin Emerson Jr. If Ward is unable to go, they’ll man the outside spots, with rookie Cameron Mitchell or veteran Mike Ford options to man the slot when needed.
“There’s a lot of guys fully capable and that’s when you know you have a good team, is when you have great depth,” McLeod said. “And so we’ve established depth this offseason and over the course of training camp. Having guys play a lot of snaps for us and you’ve seen productivity, so we feel confident about whoever the eleven is that suits up for us come Sunday.”
Bengals QB Joe Burrow Returning From Calf Injury
The Bengals have had their own injury concerns to worry about, particularly with quarterback Joe Burrow, who sat out the entire preseason with a calf injury.
“I think he’s in a good place. We’ve got a good plan in place for him to get ready for week one,” Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said, per Geoff Hobson of . “From everything I’ve seen, it hasn’t been an issue at all in the last two days. I think everything’s looked relatively normal as far as timing and anticipation goes and, and accuracy and all that.”
Burrow has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league since arriving in 2020 as the No. 1 overall pick. However, he’s had trouble with the Browns, going 1-4 in games against Cleveland. He’s tossed 10 touchdowns and five interceptions in those games, averaging 295 yards.
The Bengals are a 2.5-point favorite against the Browns.
J.R. De Groote covers the Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Lakers and UFC for Heavy.com. He covered local and statewide sports as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and has decades of experience in digital media with previous stops at SB Nation and Bleacher Report. He has won multiple state, regional and national honors for sports reporting and photography. More about J.R. De Groote
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