Browns Pro Bowl Defender Cleared, New DB Questionable vs. Bengals

Kevin Stefanski, Browns

Getty Head coach Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns.

The Cleveland Browns shared mixed news on an injured secondary that’s preparing for the fearsome passing attack of Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 1.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski on Friday, September 8, confirmed that two-time Pro Bowler and starting cornerback Denzel Ward is a full-go for Sunday’s regular-season opener. Ward spent the week navigating league protocol after suffering the fourth concussion of his five-year NFL career.

“Denzel [is] a big part of what we do. So excited that he was able to get out of the concussion protocol safely and have a good week of practice,” Stefanski said. “We know what’s at stake with their offensive attack, certainly with the guys that they have [on] the perimeter and in the slot. So it’s a big boost.”

Browns Safety Juan Thornhill Questionable Against Bengals with Calf Injury

Juan Thornhill, Browns

GettySafety Juan Thornhill of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a defensive touchdown during an NFL preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs in August 2023.

The other bit of news coming out of Cleveland’s injury report Friday involved safety Juan Thornhill who is dealing with a calf issue and is questionable for his first game as a member of the Browns secondary.

“It’s been something that I guess has been bothering him,” Stefanski said Friday of Thornhill’s calf. “So being careful with him, and we’ll see how it goes over the next 48 hours.”

If Thornhill can’t go, the team is expected to turn to veteran option Rodney McLeod as the starter.

“That’s why we went out and got Rodney,” Stefanski told reporters. “The ability to play — not even in this situation, but the ability to play, period — helps us in special teams. Very, very good in the meeting room. Unbelievable mentor to the young players. So, obviously very happy we have him.”

McLeod has a Super Bowl ring from his time with the Philadelphia Eagles, while Thornhill won a championship last season as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Thornhill signed a three-year deal worth $21 million to join the Browns this offseason, while McLeod signed a one-year contract worth $1.3 million.

Safeties D’Anthony Bell and undrafted rookie Ronnie Hickman out of Ohio State are also on the roster.

Browns CB Denzel Ward Entering Dangerous Territory After Repeated Concussions

Greg Newsome

GettyCornerbacks Denzel Ward (left) and Greg Newsome II (right) of the Cleveland Browns celebrate a successful play during an NFL game against the Houston Texans.

While Ward practiced on Friday and Thornhill did not, the former is in a much more precarious position from a macro perspective.

Discussions about whether Ward ought to consider retirement have begun considering the multitude of head injuries he has suffered over a relatively short NFL run. Neither Ward nor the Browns have mentioned the possibility of the CB hanging up his cleats, and the news Friday that he’s been cleared to play against Cincinnati slams the door on any such possibility at this juncture.

Ward is under contract with Cleveland through 2027 after signing what was, at the time, a historic five-year deal worth north of $100 million in April 2022.

Read More