Denzel Ward missed his third consecutive game in concussion protocol on Monday, which has led to concerns about the highly-paid Cleveland Browns cornerback getting back on the field this season.
Ward sustained a blow to the head in Week 5 in a loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and has been unable to suit up since. It’s the third concussion of Ward’s career, which has created additional concern about his future.
The Browns have been mostly mum on Ward’s situation but general manager Andrew Berry made it clear that they want to make sure he’s fully healthy before getting back on the field.
“We are listening to the medical experts there. Denzel is doing everything that he can to get back on the field,” Berry told reporters on Wednesday. I think everybody realizes here that concussions can be tricky and then just reality because you are dealing with your brain, we want to make sure that guys are healthy before they get back onto the field.”
The league modified concussion protocols midseason after a scary incident involving Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa that saw him get carted off the field.
“As such, as has been done in previous cases, based on the advice of the parties’ respective medical experts, the Protocol will be modified to enhance the safety of the players,” a statement from the league read. “Specifically, the term ‘ataxia’ has been added to the mandatory ‘no-go’ symptoms. ‘Ataxia’ is defined as abnormality of balance/stability, motor coordination or dysfunctional speech caused by a neurological issue. In other words, if a player is diagnosed with ‘ataxia’ by any club or neutral physician involved in the application of the Concussion Protocol, he will be prohibited from returning to the game, and will receive the follow-up care required by the Protocol.”
Injuries Have Been Bugaboo for Denzel Ward
Ward has never played a full season in his NFL career, being on the receiving end of some unfortunate injuries. He’s missed 16 games overall but has been a weapon when he is available, locking down one side of the field for the Browns.
He was awarded a $100.5 million extension this offseason, making him the highest paid at his position. While the injuries are a concern, the Browns really had no choice to lock Ward up due to his potential at a premium position.
Ward was having a tough season by his standards. He’s been targeted 25 times, allowing 16 catches for 293 yards. He registered 16 tackles and one interception but his Pro Football Focus grade of 39.8 was by far the worst of his career.
With Ward out, rookie cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. has seen more playing time and has performed well. Against the Bengals on Monday Night Football he allowed just two catches for eight yards and had a pass breakup.
Browns Defense Turning Things Around After Rough Start
Despite Ward’s absence, the Browns defense has been able to turn things around after a rough start to the year. The unit held the Bengals to less than 250 yards of offense and was also able to limit the Ravens to 254 yards in the week prior — less than 100 through the air.
“The light was never gone,” Browns star pass-rusher Myles Garrett said on Monday. “That is all we talked about: empty the tank, 100 percent commitment to your craft and your brother. See what we can get out of it, especially going into the bye week. We had a lot of guys buy completely into that message, and it really showed.”
Despite missing a game due to a car crash, Garrett is one sack off the league lead at 7.5 for the season.