Browns safety T.J. Ward opened the letter from the NFL and quickly scanned it for one important detail: the price of his punishment.
Once he located that number, he moved on.
“I didn’t want it to ruin the rest of my day,” he said.
Ward was fined $25,000 for an illegal hit he delivered on Sunday against Dallas wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, a penalty the hard-hitting defensive back is appealing and one he insists was well within the league’s rules on helmet-to-helmet contact. Ward said replays conclusively show he did not touch any part of Ogletree’s head.
“I think it was completely legal,” Ward said. “I aimed for his chest. I hit him in his chest. He was falling forward. No part of my helmet hit his helmet. No part of my shoulder pad hit his helmet. If it did hit at any part, it was probably the aftereffect or the end of the hit. I think it was just a blown call and a blown punishment.”
Ward, who was fined $15,000 in 2010 for a nasty hit on Cincinnati wide receiver Jordan Shipley, was called for unnecessary roughness for the shot on Ogletree. The 15-yard personal foul aided the Cowboys’ drive that set up a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds of regulation. Dallas went on to win 23-20 in overtime.
Ogletree sustained a concussion and has been ruled out of Thursday’s game against Washington. Browns cornerback Buster Skrine also suffered a concussion during the play when he collided with Ogletree just after Ward delivered his blow. Skrine did not practice and Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the second-year player “is going through the (concussion) process.”
Ward was adamant he did nothing wrong. He said the crackdown on hits to the head is making it tough for him — or any defensive player — to be aggressive.
“It’s ridiculous,” he said. “I could see if I came under him, like the Shipley hit. By the rules, I deserved that fine. I hit him under his helmet, under his face mask. This one, not at all. I hit him in his chest. Freeze frame, you can see the pictures and everything, it’s in his chest. My head is completely to the side. It’s almost like he’s over my shoulder.”
Ward’s fine came one day after Baltimore safety Ed Reed’s one-game suspension for several helmet-to-helmet hits was reduced to a $50,000 fine.
Reed had been suspended one game without pay for his third violation in three seasons against defenseless players. On Sunday night, Reed drilled Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Ward was also fined for being a repeat offender, which he finds illogical.
“I could see if it was a repeat offense in the same year, that makes sense,” he said. “But repeat offense from three years ago? C’mon, man.”
Haden back at practice
Browns cornerback Joe Haden returned to practice and may play against Pittsburgh after missing last week’s game with an oblique injury.
Haden moved well and didn’t seem limited during the portion of Wednesday’s practice open to the media. The Browns are 0-5 this season without Haden, their top cornerback who also missed four games while serving a suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Without Haden, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo picked on his replacement, Buster Skrine, who didn’t practice as he recovers from a concussion sustained in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Skrine is “working through the process” and did not say if he will play against the Steelers.