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Ward continues to practice

Posted Oct 5, 2012

Despite an injured thumb, third-year safety T.J. Ward has practiced with the team and is preparing for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward suffered a thumb injury early in the team’s 23-16 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday night and managed to play through the pain he was experiencing.

Despite needing to have surgery on his right thumb, Ward practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday. He was listed as “questionable” on the team’s Friday injury report, the last before Sunday’s game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

“I hate missing games,” Ward said Friday. “When I heard I could play with it, I think having the surgery early helped me out and the doctors going through that with Bubba (Ray Ventrone) kind of helped me out as well with how the process went with him playing.

“If I can play, I’m going to play. It might hurt a little bit or whatever, but if I’m able to play, I want to play. It’s a reward to be out there. It’s not something I have to do; it’s something I want to do. If I’m able to be out there and play, and help my team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”

Ward said the thumb injury “hurt a lot,” but wanted to stay on the field against the Ravens.

“I think it was the second series when the receiver ran a reserve,” Ward said. “I came down and I kind of slipped and stuck my arm out. I don’t know what it hit, but I believe my thumb hit his knee and it broke. I felt it break.

“I played through it. It was a big game for us and I knew the team needed me to be in there, so I played through it.”

Through the first four games of the 2012 regular season, Ward registered 27 total tackles, 22 solo stops and a sack of Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick in the Browns’ season-opener on Sept. 9. Ward also forced a fumble and broke up a pass.

“I’m just playing within myself, just doing what I have to do,” Ward said. “Studying a lot more, knowing my opponents better, working on my communication with the other players and just focusing, really focusing on every play, taking one play at a time and just playing hard. I always play hard, but I just feel a little bit more mature. I feel like the game is slowing down in my third year and I feel like I’m coming into the defense a lot better.”

Ward posted a season-high nine tackles in the team’s 34-27 loss at the Cincinnati Bengals in Week Two.

He enters Sunday’s game against the Giants as the Browns’ leading tackler in both total and solo stops.

“He’s had a lot of production and he’s a tough guy that plays the game like a safety should,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur said. “We’re just hopeful that he can keep it going. I think he’s played very well and we’re anticipating that he’ll continue. We feel good about how physical he is; we feel good about what he does within the structure of our defense.”

WORKING AGAINST THE GIANTS

When the Browns line up against the Giants on Sunday, they will see a front four that is both aggressive and versatile.

While he is listed as a defensive end, Jason Pierre-Paul moves inside on certain scrimmage downs, especially when New York goes to a nickel package with five defensive backs on third down.

“I think it’s important that we do a good job, if we have a play-action situation, of making sure we’re selling the run,” Shurmur said. “That’s always important. In drop-back situations where it’s an obvious pass, you’ve got to really read their keys, where they’re lined up and what we anticipate they’re going to do.”

RECOVERING FROM INJURY

Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson missed the first four games of the season with an injury to his ribs/oblique area suffered during the Aug. 30 preseason-finale against Chicago, but has returned to practice.

“He had a very good week,” Shurmur said. “I watched him very closely because he hasn’t been out here much and he practiced fast. He looks like he’s ready to go. He’s working at both outside linebacker spots.”

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