The Cleveland Browns appear to have dodged a couple of bullets in the defensive backfield.
Cover cornerback Denzel Ward suffered a foot injury on Thursday, June 16, the last day of the team’s mandatory minicamp at FirstEnergy Stadium. Ward was witnessed leaving the practice field early and moving gingerly on his left foot. He did not return.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reported on Friday that doctors conducted an MRI and X-Rays the following day, all of which showed that there was no apparent structural damage to Ward’s foot. The expectation, Cabot continued, is that he will be ready to roll come the start of training camp on July 27.
“The Browns breathed a sigh of relief Friday when tests on cornerback Denzel Ward’s left foot showed nothing too serious, a league source told cleveland.com,” Cabot wrote.
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Ward Signed Expensive, Long-Term Extension With Browns During Offseason
The news of Ward’s injury was disconcerting for several reasons. First and foremost, he is the team’s most talented cornerback and one of the only true lockdown coverage players in the NFL.
Secondly, the Browns invested a massive amount of money in extending Ward this offseason. He signed a new five-year deal in April that will pay him more than $100 million to remain in Cleveland.
When Ward signed the agreement, it was the richest annual contract for a player at his position in NFL history.
Browns CB Greedy Williams Also Missed Minicamp With Injury
Cabot also updated the status of cornerback Greedy Williams, who missed all of mandatory minicamp with what was an undisclosed injury prior to Cabot’s report.
A source also told Cleveland.com that fellow cornerback Greedy Williams’ absence from practice the past week has been because of a sprained ankle. After Ward left the field, third-round pick Martin Emerson got the bulk of the first-team reps opposite Greg Newsome II [and] A.J. Green also saw time.
As is the case with Ward, Williams should be ready to go by the start of training camp, even if both are somewhat limited in the early going.
Williams has a significant injury history over his three-year NFL tenure, including damage to a nerve in his shoulder that kept him sidelined for the entirety of the 2020 regular season. Williams is expected to start opposite Ward as part of a talented Browns’ secondary, with Newsome slated to move into the slot.
That both Ward and Williams are likely to participate in training camp activities is relieving news for the Browns, indeed, as newly-acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson could be facing up to a year-long suspension from the NFL for violations of the player conduct policy, per a report on Friday from the Washington Post.
If Watson is sidelined for an extended period of time, Cleveland will be forced to lean on backup QB Jacoby Brissett to take the reins, which means the defense will also bear an outsized portion of the responsibility for keeping the Browns competitive week in and week out.