BEREA — Hue Jackson has loved what he’s seen so far of rookie cornerback Denzel Ward. Problem is, he’d like to see more of him.
“The thing with him will be durability,” Jackson said Friday. “He’s going to have to be out there on the field competing and playing, because when he’s out there, it makes us a better football team.”
Ward, the Macedonia, Ohio native and former Buckeye who was the fourth pick in last spring’s draft, returned to practice on Saturday, just two days after leaving Thursday night’s 5-0 victory over the Eagles with what appeared to be a back injury.
After tackling 250-tight end Zach Ertz following a 7-yard catch on the Eagles’ first possession, Ward was prone on the field for a few minutes and then walked off gingerly. He underwent an MRI on Friday and was diagnosed with back spasms.
Jackson said the back flared up “from the way that he was twisted by attempting to make that tackle. We do not think that he will miss much time, if any.”
That’s encouraging for the Browns, because Antonio Brown and the Steelers are waiting on Sept. 9.
So far, Ward has been everything the Browns expected in camp when healthy. He’s breaking up passes, making tackles and holding his own against starting wideouts. But he missed most of rookie minicamp with a hip flexor and has missed time in training camp with a nagging ankle injury. Now the back spasms.
“I feel very good about him,” said Jackson. “Obviously, he has the physical skillset that we want and he’s tough. He’ll tackle. He’ll do all of those things. What he’s got to do is be able to make it through 16 games. Hopefully, we can earn another game and other games after that.”
The Browns are already down one cornerback in Ward’s backup E.J. Gaines, who suffered a sprained knee in practice last week and will be out about three to four weeks. Third-teamer Mike Jordan replaced Ward against the Eagles.
Ward didn’t miss time at Ohio State with injuries. The spring before his sophomore season in 2016, he suffered a wrist injury that coaches said was significant. But he played through it all that season.
Returning two days after what looked Thursday like it could be some time on the sidelines is another good sign.
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