BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Browns top cornerback Denzel Ward took a small but significant step Wednesday as he recovers from a concussion that could keep him out of the season opener on Sunday against Cincinnati.
Ward went through stretching and individual drills during the portion of practice open to reporters as Cleveland continued to prepare to face the Bengals and quarterback Joe Burrow and his talented receiving group.
The Browns said Ward would “participate on a limited basis.”
Although Ward remains in concussion protocol, his return to the field is a positive development for the two-time Pro Bowler.
Ward sustained his fourth reported concussion on Aug. 26 in the Browns' exhibition finale against Kansas City. He's been kept out of practice, though coach Kevin Stefanski said the No. 4 overall pick in 2018 has attended meetings and on-field walk-throughs.
It's still too early to know if Ward will dress against the Bengals. The Browns need him to try and slow Burrow, who is tracking toward playing after he missed most of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury.
“Really make sure that he hits all the benchmarks and then we’ll go from there,” Stefanski said of Ward's game status.
Ward has had three interceptions in his five-year career against Cincinnati, returning two for touchdowns.
Burrow throws to one of the league's best trio of receivers in Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd, so it's imperative for the Browns to have Ward, their top coverage defender, available to play.
“Those are the stars of the team, the offense runs through those four guys and we’re going to have to stop them to win,” said Martin Emerson Jr., who could start for Ward. "Man, hope Denzel’s playing, but same mindset, just going with the game plan and just be confident in what our coaches put together and be confident in our preparation and just play and just win.”
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