Browns’ Ward returns from PUP list
BEREA — The Cleveland Browns secondary got back a primary piece.
Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward was activated from the physically unable to perform list on Monday and will practice for the first time since Cleveland’s training camp opened. He had been sidelined with a sprained left foot.
Ward was hurt during Cleveland’s final practice of minicamp in June and has been restricted to working on the side with trainers in camp.
“It’s great,” coach Kevin Stefanski said of Ward’s return. “He’s been working very hard inside and out here, so ready to get back on the field, and obviously we’re excited about getting him back out here.”
Stefanski said Ward will be eased back “appropriately” before he’s cleared to be a full participant in practice.
Stefanski said “we’ll see” when asked if Ward will be back when the Browns host the Philadelphia Eagles for practices on Thursday and Friday before hosting them in an exhibition Sunday.
The Browns remain without All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett, who was excused from his second straight practice. Stefanski did not give a reason for Garrett’s absence and said he didn’t know when he’d return.
It was also a rough day for three rookies as center Dawson Deaton (knee), wide receiver Mike Harley Jr. (ankle) and DE Isaiah Thomas (hand) left practice early.
Dawson tore his anterior cruciate ligament, the second Browns center to suffer a serious knee injury in days after starter Nick Harris got hurt in Friday’s exhibition opener and will likely undergo season-ending surgery.
Dawson was drafted in the seventh round from Texas Tech.
Thomas, another seventh-round pick from Oklahoma, had two sacks in Friday’s exhibition win over Jacksonville.
The 25-year-old Ward signed a five-year, $105 million contract extension in April, a deal that at the time made him the NFL’s highest-paid cornerback.
The No. 4 overall pick in 2018, Ward had three interceptions last season, including one against Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow that he returned 99 yards for a touchdown in the Browns’ 41-16 win.
Cleveland’s defensive backfield has been undermanned lately. Not only was Ward out, but starting cornerback Greg Newsome II is dealing with a hamstring injury sustained last week. Stefanski doesn’t expect Newsome to be sidelined long.
NOTES: Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said he hasn’t gotten the best out of RB Kareem Hunt, who recently sat out of some drills while pushing to get a contract extension. “He’s a physical, talented guy,” Mitchell said. “I have to get him to play within our system and then, you all have not seen the best of Kareem, by no stretch of the imagination.” … Stefanski again expressed confidence QB Jacoby Brissett can handle being a long-term starter if Deshaun Watson is suspended for the season. “He has been sharp since April,” Stefanski said. “I’ve been very impressed by Jacoby. Very comfortable with him. Understand his skillset. I think he has a very good understanding of what we are trying to do offensively.” … DE Jadeveon Clowney had an excellent practice, batting down one pass and being disruptive on rushes.