T.J. Ward is not one to sit on the sidelines.
Unfortunately, for the third-year Browns safety, that is exactly where he spent the final eight weeks of the 2011 season due to a foot injury he suffered in the team’s 30-12 loss at the Houston Texans inside Reliant Stadium on Nov. 6.
Despite the injury and premature ending to his 2011 campaign, Ward is back in Berea and has been working with the Browns during their organized team activities (OTAs) and will be on the field in this week’s three-day veteran minicamp.
“I’m feeling great, real anxious to get the season going,” Ward said. “I’m real excited about the things we’re going to do on defense as a whole.”
Missing the final eight games last year served as motivation for Ward during his rehabilitation process. Limited to exercise bike and stationary work, when Ward was given the go-ahead to resume full activities, he wasted little time.
“After I got healthy, I went straight to a trainer because I wanted to come back to offseason workouts ready to go,” Ward said. “Regardless of using the offseason workouts to get ready for the OTAs, I wanted to come back ready for workouts and just get into better shape for OTAs. I’ve been training hard.”
Now that he is back on the field, Ward has noticed some new faces in the huddle and the defensive meeting room.
The Browns also hired a new defensive backs coach, Tim Hauck. Hauck, who played for several teams in the NFL before becoming a coach, teamed with Browns cornerback
“I think they were two great additions,” Ward said of Parker and Rucker. “They’re both vets; they know the game. Frostee played in our division and I’ve heard a lot of good things about J.P. I know they’re going to contribute greatly. That’s one of the things we were lacking last year, a pass rush, and, against the run, we weren’t that stout. I know they’ll come and help right away.”
Ward credits Hauck with teaching him some of the finer points of being a safety in the 4-3 defense.
“In a 4-3, you’re a lot closer to the line of scrimmage, especially me being a strong safety,” Ward said. “There’s a lot more man-to-man coverage and there are different ways you have to approach every play because with the 3-4, you have four linebackers that mostly handle the run, so you don’t have to do too much. In the 4-3, you have to be ready for the run and the pass.”
He added, “This time is invaluable and we really get to see that by not having an offseason last year and just knowing how much we could’ve learned if we had one. It’s almost like learning a defense all over again, but learning more about it because you have more time. You get the specifics of it, instead of coming in at camp and you have to throw everything in and you have to game plan after that.”
As a safety on the field, Ward has grown accustomed to helping his teammates make the correct defensive calls and line up properly to execute their assignments. Off the field, Ward is doing his best to help those in need.
Later this week, Ward will take part in the 2012 Northeast Ohio Walk for the National Kidney Foundation.
“I got asked to do this a few weeks ago and I accepted it because my uncle (is on) dialysis,” Ward said. “I think that health is the most important thing and there are a lot of people that are unhealthy out there, whether it’s because of what they’ve done or they’ve just been unlucky to have that problem. I’m blessed to be healthy and I want to help others become healthy if I can. I think this is a great way to raise money for their foundation and help that problem.”
Ward will also host two football camps at the end of the month, the first on June 25 in Canton with Browns wide receiver
“I just want to do something here and then, take it back to my home, where I get the opportunity to help them out too,” Ward said. “I think it’s important not only just to do things in the city you play in, but also do things at home too.”
ON A MISSION
Ward played his high school football at De La Salle in Concord, Calif. The Spartans set the United States High School record with a 151-game winning streak from 1992 through 2004. He also played college football for the Oregon Ducks, who were 10-3 in each of Ward’s final two seasons.
Ward plans on bringing those winning ways to the Browns this fall.
“I’m just working toward perfecting my position, perfecting this defense and helping this team win a championship; I think that’s what it’s all about,” Ward said. “We have the players; we definitely have the talent; we have the coaching staff; we have everything. There are no excuses this year. Last year, we came out with a few losses and if we would’ve hit this or would’ve done that, we would’ve won. One play away, it’s all good; it’s all fine-and-dandy, but at the end of the day, we still got the ‘L.’ It’s time to stop all of the excuses and just win.”