Denzel Ward

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/13/21

Today’s minor transactions:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Activated off reserve/COVID-19 list: C Alex Mack

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Browns Activate Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson From Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Browns will have more of their regulars in uniform Sunday in Kansas City than they did in Pittsburgh last week. They activated cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Kevin Johnson off their reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday.

Both players missed the past two games after testing positive for the coronavirus. NFL protocols would have permitted Ward to return last week, but he did not clear the necessary hurdles to return. The Browns beat the Steelers anyway, though Pittsburgh’s wide receivers enjoyed big days in Week 17 and in the teams’ opening-round matchup. The Chiefs are quite talented at this position as well.

An offseason addition, Johnson has operated as a part-time starter for the Browns. Ward has been the team’s No. 1 corner essentially since arriving in Cleveland in 2018. The Browns hope to have Joel Bitonio and wideout KhaDarel Hodge against the Chiefs as well.

Browns offensive line coach Bill Callahan also returned to practice Wednesday. The veteran NFL staffer experienced COVID symptoms, according to Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, who adds Kevin Stefanski has encountered symptoms as well. However, Stefanski is expected to coach against the Chiefs. Wideouts coach Chad O’Shea was also symptomatic, per Cabot, but he is also back at practice. Assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard remain out due to COVID.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Denzel Ward To Miss Wild-Card Game

The Browns’ uphill battle in their first playoff game in 18 years became steeper Saturday. The team announced it will be without top cornerback Denzel Ward in Pittsburgh.

Ward will remain on the Browns’ reserve/COVID-19 list. So will fellow starting cornerback Kevin Johnson, who also tested positive last week. Both missing last week limited a Browns secondary in a game when Mason Rudolph threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns.

Based on his timeline, coronavirus protocols would have allowed Ward to suit up against the Steelers. But this would have required Ward being asymptomatic and passing the necessary tests. The third-year corner has not hit the necessary checkpoints, which will leave the Browns shorthanded Sunday night. The NFL found some COVID-19 spread within the Browns but did not move to postpone the AFC North playoff matchup.

However, the Browns will have some players back for their Steelers tilt. The team activated safety Ronnie Harrison, linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant from its virus list. Harrison tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, but the NFL deemed it a false positive, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports. Browns corner Terrance Mitchell was held out of practice Friday after testing positive, per Cabot, but that has also since been deemed a false positive.

The returns of Harrison, Smith and Bryant leave Ward, Johnson, Joel Bitonio and KhaDarel Hodge on Cleveland’s COVID list. Several coaches, however, will miss the game. Kevin Stefanski, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, assistant O-line coach Scott Peters, tight ends coach Drew Petzing and DBs coach Jeff Howard are out Sunday night. After coaching the Browns’ wide receivers last week, first-year Cleveland assistant Callie Brownson will coach tight ends this week, Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com tweets.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Finds COVID-19 Spread Within Browns

Jan. 8: There is finally some good news to report on the Browns’ COVID-19 situation. Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets that the only new positive test today was assistant offensive line coach Scott Peters, who had already been identified as a high risk close contact. Hopefully, this means that the spread has been contained.

The wildcard game against the Steelers remains scheduled for Sunday night.

Jan. 7: The Browns learned Thursday they will be without another starter against the Steelers. Ronnie Harrison tested positive for COVID-19, the Browns announced. The team will have another starting safety — Andrew Sendejo — back for its playoff opener, but the NFL has determined some coronavirus spread has occurred within the Browns.

NFL chief medical officer Dr. Allen Sills said “there was some spread from one individual to another,” via NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). Previously, the league deemed the Browns’ virus issue as having resulted from a spread within the Cleveland-area community.

Despite the Browns being down head coach Kevin Stefanski, Pro Bowl guard Joel Bitonio and others, the game remains on schedule for Sunday night, Pelissero tweets. However, contact tracing is ongoing and intra-team spreads have triggered postponements this season.

The Steelers saw multiple games — against the Titans and Ravens — postponed because of COVID-19 spreading within those teams’ facilities. The NFL could face a decision soon. It is not out of the question the AFC North matchup is postponed, per the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, but a “bigger bump” in spread would need to happen (Twitter link).

Even in the event of a postponement of a day or two, the Browns would not have Stefanski or Bitonio back due to their positive tests occurring earlier this week. Cleveland also has key contributors Denzel Ward, Kevin Johnson, KhaDarel Hodge, Malcolm Smith and Harrison Bryant on its reserve/COVID-19 list. Ward could be activated in time for Sunday’s game but only if he has not encountered symptoms.

The Browns also placed linebacker Montrel Meander on the practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list but moved linebacker B.J. Goodson back onto their active roster after his stay on the COVID list. Harrison just returned to action, playing in Week 17 after missing several late-season games due to a shoulder injury.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Browns’ COVID-19 Situation

The Browns’ COVID-19 situation will keep at least four players out of their crucial Week 17 game. Linebacker Malcolm Smith and tight end Harrison Bryant are the players who tested positive for the coronavirus, sources tell NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (on Twitter). They’ll be held out of Sunday’s tilt against the Steelers, along with linebacker B.J. Goodson and safety Andrew Sendejo

[POLL: Which AFC Contender Will Miss Playoffs?]

Although the team reopened its facility after a contact tracing effort Wednesday, the Browns closed it again Thursday. They will, however, have their top four receivers back this week. Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge are off the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list. So is linebacker Jacob Phillips. The Steelers-Browns rematch remains on schedule for 1pm ET Sunday.

Denzel Ward, however, is the latest Browns player to run into COVID trouble. The Browns’ No. 1 cornerback tested positive for the coronavirus and is out Sunday, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports (on Twitter). He is out for Sunday’s game and would be a long shot to play in the Browns’ playoff opener, should they qualify.

The Browns are playing to snap the NFL’s longest active playoff drought. If they win, they’re in. If they lose, they’ll need the Colts to do the same, but that would hinge on a quality performance from the lowly Jaguars. If the Browns lose and the Colts win, they’ll need a Titans loss, plus wins from the Ravens and Dolphins to sneak into the postseason.

On the plus side, the Steelers indicated they will rest Ben Roethlisberger this weekend. Plus, they’ll be without top defenders Devin Bush and Bud Dupree, who limited the Browns to just six points in their October meeting. As it stands, Football Outsiders gives the Browns a 44% chance to hold at the No. 6 seed and a 20% chance to make it as the No. 7 seed.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Browns’ Denzel Ward To Miss Time

Browns cornerback Denzel Ward will likely miss multiple weeks with a calf strain, sources tell NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo (on Twitter). Ward suffered the injury sometime during Sunday’s win over the Eagles, one of his best individual performances of the year. 

[RELATED: Latest On Browns’ Garrett]

Denzel is a warrior,’’ teammate B.J. Goodson said (via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com). “I get excited when he makes plays. I didn’t sense any type of injury from him. I guess we will just see how that goes and hope for the best.”

Frankly, it was hard for anyone to tell. Ward broke up four passes, pressured Wentz into a pick six, and intercepted him late in the game to ice the win. Ward, who was on the field for every snap, now leads the NFL with 15 passes defensed.

At minimum, Ward will be out for this week’s game against the Jaguars — ditto for teammate Myles Garrett, who will remain on the COVID-19/Reserve list. Beyond that, his status is murky for key games against the Titans and Ravens.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Redskins, Trent Williams

The NFL trade deadline is just a few hours away, and one of the biggest name players on the block is Redskins tackle Trent Williams. Williams hasn’t played or practiced this season as he continues to hold out due to his unhappiness with Washington’s management, and the ‘Skins just recently became open to trading him.

Washington got the trade ball rolling very late in the process, and it could end up ruining their chances of getting a deal done. The Redskins haven’t budged off their asking price of a first-round pick, according to John Keim of ESPN.com. Williams is 31 with a somewhat significant injury history, so it’s unclear if anyone will meet that asking price. Additionally, we have another report that suggests Washington’s front office isn’t taking a realistic approach here.

The Redskins “aren’t just asking for draft picks,” and are “big-game hunting” while asking for players like Browns cornerback Denzel Ward in a potential trade, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link). As Rapsheet points out, that’s a “non-starter.” Cleveland just drafted Ward fourth overall last year, and he’s shown a ton of promise.

The Browns have been the team most heavily linked to Williams for a while now, as they continue to search for offensive tackle help. They’re still in the mix but the Browns have expressed concern about including a first-round pick due to a potential Williams injury, tweets Josina Anderson of ESPN.com.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Ramsey, Badet, Browns

Jalen Ramsey caused a stir yet again Sunday, even though he wasn’t playing. Ramsey missed the Jaguars’ loss to the Panthers with his back issue, but he surprisingly popped up in Houston with Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Watson posted a photo to Instagram of the two of them with their mutual agent David Mulugheta, which sparked an uproar online. Ramsey, of course, is still demanding a trade out of Jacksonville.

Despite some wishful thinking of Texans fans, Ramsey and Mulugheta weren’t in town to facilitate a trade to his AFC South rival. Instead, the Jaguars cornerback was in Houston to get his back checked out by a specialist, a source told Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Ramsey just recently revealed that he’s been dealing with back issues for the last couple of seasons, and it’s unclear how long this latest flare-up will sideline him. Stay tuned for the next edition of Ramsey-watch.

Here’s more from around the league as Week 6 winds down:

  • Former Vikings receiver Jeff Badet could be back in the league soon. Badet has workouts scheduled for this week with the Packers and Browns, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link). Tomasson notes that he suffered a finger injury during the preseason with Minnesota, and said in a separate tweet that his finger is now fully healed. Badet spent last year on the Vikings’ practice squad, and he was coveted this offseason. To keep him from signing with the Jets, the Vikings gave Badet a $75K bonus on his reserve/futures contract. He’s a 2018 UDFA from Oklahoma.
  • Speaking of the Browns, they’ll again be shorthanded in their Week 5 Monday Night Football game against the 49ers. Starting cornerbacks Greedy Williams and Denzel Ward are both unlikely to play, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com hears (Twitter link). The Browns’ secondary is still really banged up even as their safeties have gotten healthier, as both young cornerbacks are dealing with hamstring injuries. It’s unfortunate for Cleveland, as they’ll be facing a well-rested San Francisco team coming off their bye in this pivotal game.
  • In case you missed it, general managers across the league are expecting a very active trade deadline.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Bengals, Steelers

David Njoku currently resides on the Browns‘ IR list, but for the time being, the third-year tight end has a chance to return in 2019. Njoku has opted not to have surgery on his broken wrist, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The earliest Njoku could return would be for the Browns’ Week 12 game against the Dolphins. Cleveland has 2019 additions Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones in place atop its tight end depth chart. The Browns must decide on Njoku’s fifth-year option by May of 2020.

Here is the latest out of Cleveland, along with other AFC North cities:

  • The Browns’ defense is facing more pressing matters. Both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams pulled hamstrings during practice Thursday, per Cabot. They missed the Rams game. Interestingly, reserve safety Sheldrick Redwine pulled a hamstring that day as well. The Browns played without their four secondary starters — Ward, Williams, Damarious Randall (concussion) and Morgan Burnett (quadriceps). However, Cabot adds that Randall is out of concussion protocol. Burnett was questionable last week. Hamstring injuries are obviously tricky for skill players and those charged with covering them, but Cleveland’s safeties seem in line to return for Week 4 against the Ravens.
  • While no one obviously expected Shaquil Barrett‘s virtuoso start, only two teams even submitted contract offers this offseason. In addition to the Bucs’ one-year, $4MM deal, the Bengals also offered Barrett a contract, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes. Barrett visited the Bengals but did not meet with the Bucs before his agreement. A four-year backup in Denver, Barrett sought a starting role in free agency. He’s found one, and his eight sacks through three games match an NFL record. It’s early, but the former UDFA who began his career at a now-defunct Division II program is putting himself in position for a major payday — either via Bucs extension or as a 2020 free agent.
  • The Bengals worked out some defensive backs on Tuesday. Cornerbacks Greg Mabin, Picasso Nelson and Deatrick Nichols joined corner/safety Briean Boddy-Calhoun in auditioning for the team, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).
  • The Steelers auditioned tight end Alize Mack, according to Howard Balzer of BalzerFootball.com (on Twitter). Vance McDonald was present Tuesday with his arm in a sling, pointing to Pittsburgh suddenly needing help at this position.

North Rumors: Browns, Packers, Bears

The Browns plan to use Jarvis Landry, who ran 72.7% of his routes from the slot with Miami in 2017, as a part-time outside receiver during the upcoming season, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes. Landry will almost assuredly still move inside in three-wide sets, and given the NFL’s ever-expanding use of “11” personnel (one back, one tight end, three wideouts), Landry will still see plenty of time in the slot. But the Browns seem intent on using Landry in a slightly different fashion, as Cabot reports Cleveland will send Landry on deep routes in Todd Haley‘s offense.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two North divisions:

  • When asked whether Josh Gordon will play for the Browns in 2018, general manager John Dorsey said “Yeah, I would think, absolutely,” per Cabot (Twitter link). It’s difficult to parse the words of a team executive, and even more difficult when it comes to a player with a history of off-field issues, but Dorsey’s answer wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of Gordon. Gordon did not report for training camp, and while it’s not believed that he failed another drug test, he’s thought to be in a rehab facility. With Gordon’s status in question, Cleveland is considering an addition of veteran wideout Dez Bryant.
  • The Browns inserted offset language into Baker Mayfield‘s rookie contract, and fellow first-rounder Denzel Ward made the same concession, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. Ward, the fourth overall pick in the 2018 draft, likely didn’t have much of an argument after Mayfield — the No. 1 overall selection — accepted offset language in his deal. Players with offset language in their contracts who are cut before the end of their rookie deals have their remaining guaranteed money reduced by what they earn elsewhere.
  • The Packers placed both receiver Michael Clark and offensive lineman Cole Madison on the reserve/did not report list, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. While Madison is dealing with a personal matter and figures to report at some point, Clark is ending his NFL career, per Aaron Nagler of PackersNews.com (Twitter link). Clark signed with Green Bay as an undrafted free agent in 2017, and ultimately managed four receptions for 41 yards in two games. Madison, meanwhile, was selected out of Washington State in the fifth round of the 2018 draft.
  • Matt Nagy hired former Oregon Mark Helfrich as his offensive coordinator earlier this year, but the new Bears head coach had spoken with Helfrich in 2017, as Peter King of NBC Sports writes. When Nagy was the Chiefs’ OC last season, a fellow staff member advised him to call Helfrich, who immediately expressed interest in an NFL role were Nagy to land a head coaching job. Now, the two offensive minds are tasked with further developing quarterback Mitch Trubisky, while working in new weapons like Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and Trey Burton.