On Tuesday, Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward made a number of comments Tuesday about his future as well as the present and the season he feels he had. On the question of his status with the Browns and the fact he is scheduled to be a free agent, Ward said “I definitely want to be back.” In many ways, Ward has become the embodiment of what the Browns defense seems to want to be under defensive coordinator Ray Horton; tough, versatile and able to make plays.
“If I get the tag, I get the tag,” Ward said. “That would just be one more year here. It is a sort of free agency, but you’re still with the team. So it’s like a one-year contract, and I’ve just got to continue to do the things that I’ve been doing. That’s all it is, basically just another year.”
Players want long term stability if they can get it, but Ward does not seem to be too stressed at the idea of being franchised by the team. The biggest question for Ward has been his ability to stay healthy dating back to his days at Oregon. He has had issues with leg injuries, though this season he has been able to stay healthy. The healthy version has been effective for the Browns and may warrant a trip to Hawaii this year.
“I think I had a pro bowl season,” Ward said. “I know I had a pro bowl season but like I said it’s up to you guys, the fans and the other players. You get the other players and coaches respect then that helps.”
Ward is leading the team in tackles with 73, has 1.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 7 pass deflections, 2 interceptions, and a fumble recovery with two defensive touchdowns. One of those touchdowns helped them seal the win against the Buffalo Bills and the other was a couple weeks ago against the Chicago Bears; a game they would go on to lose.
“I like my team, I love my teammates, I love being in this city, I love the organization,” Ward said. “We haven’t had many wins, but I think we’re building something here, and I think it’s being built the right way. Sometimes things don’t happen right away. It takes a little bit of time, but good things are worth the wait in a lot of cases. We’re starting to build something, and if I have the opportunity, I’d love to finish it.”
Sadly, Ward is right about the wins part, but the larger point is what he and his teammates believe about this team. Even with an impotent offense and some issues finishing games, the defense does believe in what they are doing as does the team as a whole. For a 4-11 team, there seems to be a positive mindset around the organization from the players. It would be easy to for Ward or anyone else to want to get out of town, but so far that has not been the case.