The Cleveland Browns will have six representatives in Sunday's Pro Bowl, after it was announced on Monday night that safety T.J. Ward will replace Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Troy Polamalu, who will miss the game because of injury.
Ward joins cornerback Joe Haden, wide receiver Josh Gordon, center Alex Mack, left tackle Joe Thomas and tight end Jordan Cameron, who were named to the NFL's annual all-star game at the end of the 2013 regular season.
On Monday night, one of Ward's teammates, defensive captain and linebacker D'Qwell Jackson, took to Twitter to extend his congratulations:
"Congrats to @BossWard43 on making his first Pro-Bowl. Well deserved."
Ward finished the 2013 season, his fourth with the Browns, with a career-best 129 total tackles, and matched a career high with two interceptions. He also had nine passes defended, 1.5 sacks, a fumble recovery and two defensive touchdowns.
He returned an interception 44 yards for a touchdown in a 37-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in front of a national television audience on NFL Network's Thursday Night Football on Oct. 3, and then, recovered and returned a fumble 51 yards for a score against the Chicago Bears on Dec. 15.
Prior to the Pro Bowl announcements back in late December, Ward said reaching the annual all-star game would "just be something great to do and obtain."
"It would mean the world to me, honestly," Ward said. "A Pro Bowl berth would mean a lot of my hard work has paid off. It means that I played very well during the season. It means that I'm an elite player in this league. Obviously, I'm getting known by others.
"Anything you can share like that with your teammates, it makes it even better, especially sharing it with somebody on the same side of the ball as you. It shows the overall talent of the team, that we're getting a lot of those players that you need to be a championship team and play at a championship level. That's just a sign of development that we're going toward and the development of the team."
Haden, Ward's 2010 NFL Draft classmate, considers his fourth-year teammate to be an elite defensive back.
"I like T.J. as the best strong safety in the league," Haden said. "He does his job. He controls the defense. Mental errors never really (happen). His run support is good. He does a really good job as our strong safety.
"(T.J.'s) coverage skills are nice. He has some of the best feet on the team, and I don't know why it's been like that where people say he can't cover. I think maybe, it's because his run support is so good that they don't really look at his pass coverage, but he's good in pass coverage."
DRAFT RECORD BROKEN
The 2013 NFL Draft was a record-breaking one, in that 73 players forfeited the remainder of their college eligibility to become professional athletes. Well, that record the 2013 draft class set did not last long.
Led by a trio of talented quarterbacks, including the University of Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, Blake Bortles of the University of Central Florida, and Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel, 98 underclassmen have declared for the 2014 NFL Draft, according to CBSSports.com.
MANNING RAISES MONEY
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is known for calling audibles at the line of scrimmage, and the very vocal signal-caller has garnered much attention for one particular call over the last two weeks.
Right before receiving the snap from center, Manning has yelled out, "Omaha," and that has proven beneficial to more than just the Broncos' chances of winning Super Bowl XLVIII against the Seattle Seahawks in New Jersey Feb. 2.
The city of Omaha, Neb., decided that each time Manning said, "Omaha," they would donate to Manning's Peyback Foundation. With Sunday's 31 "Omaha" calls in Denver's 26-16 win over the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Manning was able to raise $24,800 for his foundation.