The Cleveland Browns have conducted several practices with key pieces of their defense unable to be in the lineup throughout various parts of training camp.
Without veteran linebackers like D’Qwell Jackson and
“It’s a little tough,” Ward said of missing the veterans. “It makes it hard because you don’t really get to get comfortable with a specific group of guys. Sometimes, when you’re playing with a certain group for so long, you kind of know what each other’s going to do before they do it and missing a player like DQ or Scott, they’re vets in this game. They’re very knowledgeable, but we’ve just got to pick up the pieces and keep it going with whoever’s in there.
“I figured I do it when they’re here, so I’m going to do it more when they’re out. I’ve just got to talk to the backers a little bit more because they’re young and they’re coming in their first year and it’s hard, but they’re very capable.”
Ward said he had “to step up,” regardless of who was lining up next to or in front of him on the field.
“Whoever we take the field with, I’m going to do my best to be the leader on the team, on the defense and just play as hard as possible and make sure this defense goes to the places it needs to be,” Ward said. “We’ve got to communicate and as long as we communicate to each other, then, things should go fine.
“As long as everybody’s on the same page, then we’ll just come in and whoever’s filling the spots for the guys that are out, if they come in ready and know what they’re doing and we talk to each other once the play is going on and be ready for alert before things happen, than everything will be fine.”
Ward came into the Browns’ 2012 training camp after missing the final eight games of 2011 with a foot injury suffered in the team’s 30-12 loss against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on Nov. 6.
Prior to the premature end to his season, Ward registered 38 tackles, 27 solo stops, his first career sack and three passes defended.
“I don’t think anyone comes into camp completely comfortable,” Ward said. “That’s what camp’s for, to knock off the spider webs and get the habits back. I came in healthy; I was fresh. I still feel that way and hopefully, I’ll come out of this preseason completely healthy and it will roll into the regular season. To be 100 percent comfortable at all times is kind of hard in football because every team throws something different at you.”
After missing half of 2011 due to injury, Ward came into camp with a focused mindset. As the Browns continue their preparations for the 2012 season, Ward said he plans on working to hone his skills, use his instincts and “become a smarter player.”
Playing in the same conference as high-profile safeties like Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed from Baltimore, Ward wants to be considered in the same regard.
“I know how good of a player I can be, so that’s really what I’m honing in on right now, being the best player I can be,” Ward said. “I really don’t care what other people think I can do or can’t do; it’s all about what (I), my teammates and my supporters feel.
“Those are great players who have been doing it for a long time, not only in this division, but this entire league, so anytime you get mentioned in a breath with players of that quality, it’s definitely a good thing. I just want to be my own player, my own individual player and hopefully, some day another player is being mentioned in my breath.”