CB Denzel Ward (1.10.24)

You guys didn’t face CJ (Stroud) last time. Ohio State guy. Yeah, you. What challenge does he present? What’s the biggest key to slowing him down? 

“Real big challenge. This is a new quarterback for their team. Like you said, he’s a Buckeye, so all the Buckeyes are great. So he’s a great quarterback, though. Very accurate passer, puts the ball on the money, can make all the throws on the field, gets the ball to his playmaker, goes through his progressions. So he’s been having a real good year and going to bring a challenge to us that I think we’re up for, though.”


He hasn’t turned the ball over much at all, especially for a rookie quarterback. How big is forcing him into some mistakes going to be in this game? 

“Yeah, it’ll be huge, but we just got to do our assignment and hopefully we could force some turnovers and create those. But like I said, he’s a very accurate quarterback and it’s going to be tough. But I think we can do it, though.”


He seems to work really well with that Michigan receiver, too. What do you make of Nico Collins?

“Yeah, he’s a real good receiver as well. Big receiver, got good hands, good routes. Probably his favorite target out there. So they definitely got that connection out there that we’re going to have to lock on to and try to eliminate those guys.”


You’ve played against a lot of shifty, mobile, dual threat type of quarterbacks. How much does the experience, what you guys went through in the regular season, facing all those guys prepare you to face CJ (Stroud), who’s in that category? 

“Yeah, we got some great experience throughout the regular season with quarterbacks and receivers, whether they’re mobile and may have to plaster longer and stay in our coverage a little longer or just the way guys run routes and taller receivers, smaller receivers. So, we definitely got a good amount of experience out the regular season that I think has prepared us for the playoffs.”


Denzel, do you think this playoff team is better than the 2020 team?

“I believe so. I believe so. I think we got a lot of talent. That team had a lot of talent as well. But over that, I mean, talent doesn’t just win games. I think just how locked in we are and the camaraderie and how close we are as a team has got us as far as we are, and we just got to keep building upon that and that’s going to start come Saturday.”


What makes this team so special in that regard? Because it doesn’t seem like you guys have ever had it quite like this before. Why now? And what makes it so special? 

“I think guys have done a great job again, the right guys in here and then just also time that, like I said before, of us spending in Greenbrier throughout camp and we spent a lot of time together as on the field and off the field. And then that communication, it just translated like just guys going out to dinner, out to eat, hanging out in our free time and just building that communication. We’re just comfortable with one another and it translates out there on the field. We have fun out there and that’s the biggest thing. We just enjoy playing with one another. We just love to have fun out there. That’s the biggest thing.”


Get any more super excited knowing you’re up against a rookie quarterback? I think you’ve had one other one this year. Or is (CJ) Stroud a totally different animal at this point? 

“I think just the main focus is being us. Just being us and going out there doing what we got to do to get a win. Regardless of CJ Stroud or another quarterback out there, rookie quarterback or non rookie quarterback, every team faces a challenge and I think it’s just about being us, though.”


Do you believe there’s something unique about a playoff game that can undo a rookie quarterback? 

“I’m not sure. That might be a question for him, but I say I think it’s just about being us. We just got to go out there, do our job and assignment and execute.”


Did you feel any different in your first playoff game? 

“Mine was a little different, actually. I think I was coming off of COVID so that was my first game back from COVID and yeah, so it was a little tough for me just dealing with you all know about COVID and stuff like that, but I’m just looking forward to the opportunity to be able to play this game.”


The environment on the road, last time there you played well, but just throughout the season the road’s been kind of your Achilles heel on your side of the ball. So how do you guys prepare for that and be ready to play your best football? 

“Definitely just bringing the energy. Bring the energy. We know it’s going to be a crazy atmosphere there and we’re going to build off of that. We got to take in all that energy and celebrate with our guys and go out there, make plays and do what we can to get the win.”


You guys have studied CJ (Stroud), has there been a game or two that you’ve noticed where a team really has been able to pressure him and kind of throw him off his rhythm, off his game consistently?

“Yeah, potentially. I mean, that’s the [National] Football League. Guys are going to have good games. Guys are going to have games they may struggle in and just find ways to attack those guys and what they may be good at or weak at and could get better in. So I think we’re just trying to go out there and see what we could attack them in and go out there and execute that.”


Being from here and hearing all stories about the Super Bowl. Joe getting up and other guys like that being from here, how much do you think it would mean to these fans to experience something like that? 

“Man, it was inspiring. So it’d be crazy, especially being from Cleveland and just, I was here when LeBron (James), he won the championship and those guys brought the downtown and just the atmosphere and experience just the whole entire city. So, I think to be able to do that on the football end and bring a championship and everything to the city would be crazy. So we just got to take things a game at a time and work to get there.”


I think there are 15 players left from that 2020 team, guys who shared the first experience. Do you feel different as a player? Like four years later.

“Yeah, definitely. I feel like I have a lot more experience, a lot more comfortable in the system and team that I’m in and just ready, just feel ready to go out there and play.”


Yesterday, Joe (Flacco) talked about just what it kind of takes, the mentality you need for winning the playoffs. You guys have kind of been living by that one game at a time mentality, really all season. So just how equipped do you guys feel like you are?

“Yeah, I don’t necessarily feel it’s just added pressure. I mean, like you said, taking things one game at a time, just looking forward to the opportunity to go out there, play with my brothers, my teammates and coaches, and try to find a way to get a win and move along in the playoffs.”


How different has Kevin (Stefanski) been? I mean, how have you seen him change as a coach over your time with him? 

“He’s been a great coach ever since he came in. Just his attention to detail, his focus, the way he coaches us, and that’s grown over time. Just his ability to be able to coach us all different playing styles and everything and just out there, his play calling out there on the field. So I mean, he’s been a great coach and I appreciate him. He’s one of the reasons why we got this far to the playoffs, so definitely appreciate him and I say he’s a great coach.”


What is it about this particular team and season? Kevin’s (Stefanski) been here four years, but this is really, I think, the first time where the locker room sounds like him, go 1-0 this week, we’re focused on this week, etc. Why has his message really taken hold of this team and how much is that going to help you guys going into the one game season? 

“Yeah, I think guys in the locker room have bought into coach Stefanski and the coaches and what they’re preaching, and I think that’s huge right there. Yeah, he’s been preaching that and getting us to go 1-0 and that’s been the main focus. And like I said, we believe in him, believe in what he’s coaching us to do and it’s showing out there on the field.”


Most teams do not, when they lose their starting quarterback to a fractured shoulder, they don’t have the opportunity to go find themselves a former Super Bowl MVP to go out there and play at an elite level. How cool is it for you guys knowing that you get to go into these playoffs with a quarterback like that? 

“Yeah, it’s cool. It’s exciting. I remember watching Joe Flacco growing up and winning a Super Bowl, so it’s just crazy for him to be on the team and I’m glad that he’s here. He has that experience out there on the field. He’s been there before, so it’s just a great opportunity for him to come into and for the team. So, we got to try to take advantage of that and go out there and get a win.”


How much has Jim Schwartz, his just his perspective on this type of second season, being a Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator with the Eagles and kind of brings that to the table. How much value does that kind of give you guys kind of turn to him and he can kind of give you some of that what it’s like in a whole?

“Yeah, definitely. Like coach (Kevin) Stefanski, he had all those guys stand up and share their experience and he shared his experience and him being there. But yeah, that’s definitely someone we could go to and just ask about it if we have questions about just the process and everything, what to expect out there come game day. But I think we’re ready, though.”

# # #


***Visit the Browns Media Center for materials provided by the Browns communications department, including media schedules, press releases, quotes, photos, media guides, rosters, depth charts and more.***