Unfortunately, it isn’t the first concussion of Ward’s five-year career, but his fourth. He missed practice on Monday due to the injury and may be forced to sit out the team’s opener against the Cincinnati Bengals this coming Sunday. But the issue is bigger than that.
The two-time Pro Bowler now finds himself entering dangerous territory, as repeated head injuries have been linked to serious health issues for football players during and after their careers. There has been no talk of Ward walking away from the game, either from the organization or the cornerback himself, though Jacob Roach of USA Today’s Browns Wire believes perhaps there should be.
“Cornerback Denzel Ward has a long injury history, missing time in every season since he joined the Cleveland Browns in 2018,” Roach wrote on Monday, September 4. “Some things are bigger than football and the Browns should be consulting with Ward about the seriousness of his concussion history. The newest concussion he received in the preseason finale against the [Kansas City] Chiefs is already the fourth of his NFL career. That includes in 2018 when Ward sustained two concussions in the same month to end his season.”
Denzel Ward Still on Front End of NFL Career with Browns
Ward and his NFL career remain young, as he enters his sixth season in 2023 at the age of 26. His youth makes the prospect of retirement less likely, as does his five-year, $100 million contract that runs through 2027.
Beyond the money, Ward has been excellent at his job stretching back to his college days. Cleveland drafted him with the No. 4 overall pick out of Ohio State in 2018. Since joining the league, Ward has amassed 65 pass breakups, 13 interceptions, two forced fumbles and two defensive touchdowns, per Pro Football Reference.
He suffered through a down year in 2022, earning a meager 56.8 overall player grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF) based on advanced analytics. However, the upgrades Cleveland has made across the defense, particularly to the defensive line, should ease some of the burden on the secondary and help Ward regain his Pro-Bowl form of 2021 — assuming complications from his latest concussion don’t linger.
Browns Fans Should Expect Denzel Ward to Return to Field This Season
The issue of potentially career-ending concussions surfaces time and again across the league. The most recent high-profile case involved Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who suffered multiple frightening incidents over the course of last season.
But the NFL is rife with incredibly tough individuals whose identities are tied to making fantastic livings in a violent way, and physical injuries are a natural part of the culture. Ward numbers among these players who approach the business of football with warrior-like mentalities.
That isn’t to say that exiting the game early in the interest of health would somehow mean Ward is no longer a tough individual, but it does point to the likelihood that he will be back on the field with his Browns teammates as soon as he’s cleared by doctors.
“If the team and Ward do decide [he should return], they should probably give him some more time off before doing so,” Roach wrote. “If he were to rush back and sustain another head injury, that could mean the end of his NFL career.”
Max Dible covers the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns and Golden State Warriors for Heavy.com. He covered local and statewide news as a reporter for West Hawaii Today and served as news director for BigIslandNow.com and Pacific Media Group’s family of Big Island radio stations before joining Heavy. More about Max Dible
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