Need to Know: Denzel Ward returns to practice, eyes return vs. Bengals

It’s been a good couple of days for Denzel Ward.

On Tuesday, Ward became just the sixth rookie in Browns history to land a spot in the Pro Bowl. On Wednesday, he was back on the practice field for the first time in weeks after missing the past two games with a concussion.

“He was peppy,” Browns coach Gregg Williams said. “He ought to be, he was fresh. It was good to see him back out there. Last week in the meetings it was good to, but everything seems to be fine.”

Ward was a full participant Wednesday, a strong indication he’ll be ready to go for Sunday’s game against the Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. If he’s back and on the opposite side of the field as Terrance Mitchell -- who recently returned from an eight-game absence -- it could mark the first time since Week 4 the Browns will have their full starting secondary available for a game.

Ward said his absence was “longer than expected” but was glad to be back.

“He has to get ready for this weekend,” Williams said. “Be it somewhat similar too is I mentioned this when Mitch came back after eight weeks. He has to get back into it. One of the things that I needed to see in practice today was getting back into it – no gliding and stuff. He was very sharp today. That helps because at this level, there is no just comfortable, easy, kind of gliding type of game. You have to get ready to go.”

-- Browns QB Baker Mayfield didn’t mince words when he was asked how the team would stay motivated despite significantly diminished playoff odds.

“We want to win our last two games. If the guys on this team don’t want to do that then you can get out,” Mayfield said. “That is quite frankly how I feel. We have a lot of guys that are playing on their contract year, that also does not need to be a distraction. You go out and do your job. The best thing that we can do right now is win football games, and right now the Cincinnati Bengals is our goal.”

-- The Browns have already clinched a winning record at home and have a shot at their fifth win Sunday against the Bengals. They’ve also got a shot at their first winning record in the division since the AFC North was formed in 2002.

Williams said it’s no accident. The team made winning at home a priority at the start of offseason workouts.

“It is on our board. It is on our walls when they come into the room. It is something that they look at every single day,” Williams said. “You have to do a good job at home. You have to do a good job in you division. You have to do a good job every week. The big emphasis is defending you home stadium, playing in your home stadium and doing that. Obviously, when you are doing that, your home field advantage becomes strong.”

-- Williams said he believed linebacker Joe Schobert was having a Pro Bowl-caliber season but understands why he wasn’t included on this year’s rosters. Schobert, who was Cleveland’s lone representative in the game last year, missed three games with a hamstring injury.

Schobert is second on the team with 87 tackles despite missing those three games.

“He is a competitive young man and he has had a very good year,” Williams said. “I think I said it a little bit the other day about what an unbelievable game he had from a quarterback perspective on defense this past game on some of the checks and stuff that he was doing and getting everybody else to play well. He played pretty well, too.”

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