Denzel Ward will have his hands full this weekend and he knows it.
The Browns rookie cornerback is tasked with defending Steelers All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown in Sunday's season opener against Pittsburgh, a matchup that could very well shape Cleveland's chances of taking down its divisional rival.
"A great player. A great receiver. He's going to push you," Ward said Thursday. "He's going to work you every play. So just got to know where he's at all times on the field."
How's that for an assignment in your regular-season debut? But it's games like these, of course, why the Browns made Ward the fourth overall pick in the NFL Draft this past spring. Brown, a six-time Pro Bowler, has terrorized Cleveland's defense in years past, and it'll be Ward's primary job to shadow his every move.
Browns coach Hue Jackson's message to the youngster is simple. "Cover him," he said. "That's what it comes down to.
"It won't just be him. It's our defense against their offense. Obviously, Antonio is a tremendous football player, one of the best in this league at playing wide receiver. We're going to have to always know where he is and what he's attempting to do, and we have to get him shut down, but it won't just be Denzel trying to do that. We all have to do it as a defense. That's going to be important throughout this game."
Sunday also marks Ward's regular season debut after three years with the Buckeyes. A Macedonia native, he expects more than 50 family members and friends at FirstEnergy Stadium to come watch him play on the biggest stage against one of the league's best.
"I'm definitely embracing that challenge," he said. "I look forward to going against him."