CB Denzel Ward (4.16.24)

How was the OSU (Ohio State University) spring game?

“It was fun man. I haven’t been back in so long, so I was looking forward to getting back and seeing some of those new Buckeyes there and some of the old coaches that I worked out with and played with there, and then some of my old teammates were there as well, so it was fun. They got a lot of talent there on that team, so they should be good this year.”


What do you feel like the vibe is, you know, the energy for you guys all coming back into the building again, what’s it like to be back, and what do you think you guys can do in terms of building on what you did last year?

“Yeah, definitely, energy has been great so far being in the building, but I think we all kind of realize that we can’t just think that we could just pick up where we left off from last year, but just gotta pick it up and still start over and still get back with the guys and go outside of the practice facility, going out to eat and just still building that camaraderie and that chemistry. And I think that’s going to take us a long way again.”


On that note Denzel, that last game obviously is not how you wanted the season to end. So how does that motivate you guys to be better this year?

“Oh, man, I think that was one of the main reasons why I’m back in this building right now. Definitely didn’t like the taste in my mouth from that last game and the showing that we put out there on the field. So, I think that’s why a lot of guys are in here now just ready to get back to work, ready to get back to it and work towards our goals that we got in making it to the playoffs and extending our season.”


And Denzel, as someone who’s been through this now for a little bit, what’s this time of year like, coming back? You’re in the classroom, in the weight room, but you’re not doing stuff on the field, then maybe feel like football, but it is football. What’s important about this time of year for you and what do you get out of it?

“Yeah, I mean, it’s fun. I mean, off season’s pretty long. Like, we’re not really with all the guys, and you’re kind of just off doing your own thing, training and working out. And then, I mean, right now is just a good time to come back and start building on that chemistry like I’ve been talking about, learning the system again and the scheme and the playbook and just working out with the guys and just building around each other, building that team up and getting ready for the season.”


You’ve had a handful of new additions, but for the most part, it seems like this defensive core is back, in the NFL since teams are always figuring each other out. How confident are you in the key guys that you have and that you’ll be able to maintain that hunger, so to speak, especially with last season ending the way it did?

“Yeah, I think we got a lot of hunger with the guys that we got back and we got some great additions that came onto the team, and so we’re just looking to build on top of each other and just work towards our goals and being great this season.”


“Was there one thing specifically you kind of zeroed in on and to work on the last couple of months personally that you felt like you really needed to improve on?”

“I mean, yeah, for me personally, like, during the off season right now, I try to build my body up, get my body weight up, so I’m heavier right now. I know I’m gonna lose some weight and some muscle throughout the season because it’s a long season just wearing down on the body. So I definitely got my weight up to a weight that I like coming in and just keeping my speed and my power out there. So that’s definitely one thing that I focus on this offseason.”


The defense ranked number one. But where do you think there are areas for you guys to improve and get even better in year two with Jim Schwartz?

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, yeah, we were number one, but weren’t perfect out there at all. But I think our biggest thing is we’re playing fast and we were playing together. But one of the areas I think that we can improve on is definitely takeaways, getting more takeaways and getting our hands on the ball and being able to get that ball back for our offense and special teams.”


There has been a rule change as far as how you tackle eliminating the hip drop. Is that something that as a team and as you individually, you just have to constantly work on, or is this something that pretty much you can adjust to on the fly?

“Yeah, I think you definitely have to work on those things. I mean, when something’s being newly implemented into an organization, into a team, you’re probably gonna have to practice it and change your forms of tackling and just to teach it and just to learn it. So I think it’s definitely something that we’re going to practice. They talked about it a little bit so far since being here in the building that this is a rule change and something that we’re going to have to focus on and not necessarily do. So we don’t get any flags out there on the field.”


You ever do one of those?

“No, I haven’t. I usually feel like I don’t usually tackle like that. I usually just try to come as fast as I can and shoot my shot out there. So, no, I don’t think I’ll have any issues with that. With that rule, though.”


Do you know what a hip drop tackle is and do you get worried as a defender that they’re trying to legislate the laws of physics because your job is to tackle guys on the ground, but they’re either changing your strike zone and now they’re telling you can’t tackle it in certain ways.

“Yeah, I think it is tough because, I mean, the game of football is a physical game and it happens so fast. So I don’t think guys do things intentionally to try to go out there. ‘Oh, I’m about to try to hip drop or try to hurt this guy on this tackle,’ but it’s just like I said, it happens so fast that you just try to do what you can to get a guy down and sometimes you’re put in weird positions to where something like that may happen. But I think we’re going to do a good job of trying to practice that during practice to avoid those types of tackles and to play clean football. So I think we’ll adjust well, and it shouldn’t be an issue.”


The feeling on the team that you guys have Deshaun Watson coming back healthy from his shoulder injury this year, and if all goes well, he’ll be your quarterback for all 17 games. What’s sort of the vibe on that?

“Man it’s exciting. I mean, you guys saw what Deshaun (Watson) was out there doing before he went out, like that Baltimore game and just his poise in the pocket, able to stretch the field and make every throw. So just excited to have him back and hoping that his recovery still continues to go well. And I said looking forward to him being our number one quarterback in leading us.”


You told Andrew (Berry) which Buckeyes you want him to draft next week?

“I have put a little word in about some Buckeyes. I told him we need to get more Buckeyes in here, so I think we might see some. But yeah, you can’t go wrong with any Buckeyes on the team.”


What are your thoughts on potentially drafting Michael Hall Jr.?

“I hope so. I hope so. That’s a good player coming out in the draft from Ohio State, that he’d be a good addition to the team I feel like.”






What are your thoughts on the state of college football? I mean, it’s just different than it was six years ago.

“Yeah, it is different with the NIL and guys able to enter the transfer portal, so it’s a lot different. When I was in college, if you went there, that’s the school you were going to. And so it is different, but I mean, change isn’t always so bad, so yeah, just gotta get used to it and see how it plays out.”


Are you angry that they’re making an NCAA football game after you graduated?

“Yeah, no, I am kind of upset about that. When I was a little kid, I was always on that one. I was like, man, I want to play myself on a video game. And NCAA used to always do the road to glory and play there. So, I fulfilled that and getting into the NFL and being able to play Madden, but I’m glad they’re the bringing the game back. So, I know that’s gonna be exciting for a lot of guys that like to play the game and see themselves on the NCAA game.”


So you’re entering year three with you, Martin (Emerson Jr.), Greg (Newsome), is that kind of core in the corner now and year two in the system, I guess. How confident are you guys as a trio? I know Greg (Newsome II) normally likes to say more about this than you do, but how do you think you guys have worked together so far? And how confident are you going into this year?

“Yeah, very confident. I mean, I feel we’re the best corner group in the NFL. I feel that went out there and showed that, but this is a new year and we got to go out there and show that again. So, I mean, that’s what we’re doing now, putting that work in to go out and show why we’re the best group. And so that’s all it is. It’s just getting to the work and going out there and showing that. But I definitely feel we’re the best, though.”


What do you think about Myles (Garrett) finally getting that Defensive Player of the Year Award. And I’m just curious for you personally. I know that usually goes to a pass rusher, but do you ever think about winning one of those?

“Man, I think Myles (Garrett), he probably could have won defensive player of the year every year. So, no, it’s definitely well deserved. So I was happy for him that he got that. Just a big testament to the work he puts in and what he means to our team and what he’s able to do out there on the field. I mean, he’s a dominant force and not many guys could stop him. Obviously, you need probably this whole group of audience to stop Myles (Garrett), but just a big shout out to Myles (Garrett) and his accomplishments.”


The NFLPA survey that gets done every year here, in recent years, one of the negatives that Browns players have pointed out was the weight room being in the field house. Now that you come back and you see that they’re building a new weight room for you guys to address that concern that you guys expressed, just, you know, what does that mean to you to see the organization addressing something that you guys pointed out as maybe not being what you guys would meet your standards?

“I mean, it meets my standard. I mean, don’t need much, but I mean, that just shows you the pride and that this is a player-friendly organization. Like, they hear that something isn’t going so well, so they make changes and things that they could do to help the players and get the organization running better. Anything they can do to help us out there on the field. I mean, they do that in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of equipment and machines that’s been brought in the training room and everything to help us out so, definitely appreciative of that. But yeah, there’s a lot of changes that are being made and they’re in the weight rooms and everything to give us all the resources that we need.”


When you talk about your cornerback group. How important is it to you to keep that group together, you Greg (Newsome II) and Martin (Emerson Jr.)?

“Yeah, it’s very important. I mean, that was one of the things I kind of been openly sharing. Like, I want to keep us together. I feel like even AB (Andrew Berry) says all the time, you can never have enough great corners and enough corners on a team. And, I mean, that’s real. Guys go down and just having the ability to be able to match up with any teams across the board, whether that’s inside in the slot with Greg or outside with me and Martin (Emerson Jr.) and being able to rotate and do different things and having multiple number one corners on the team. So it’s definitely, we’re definitely in an ideal situation position. Those guys did a great job of drafting all of us and getting us all here. But like I said, we just got continue to go out and show that we’re number one, though.”


Have they assured you that all these Greg Newsome trade rumors are nothing and can easily be just dismissed?

“I mean, Greg’s in the building now working, so. I mean, I think so, but I don’t know all the behind-the-scenes stuff, but we’re all in the building now working towards the same goal and trying to be the best.”


Did you guys get a chance to catch up with (Christian) Kirksey in Hollywood?

“Not yet, but I’ve seen they (Rashard Higgins and Christian Kirksey) retired. I was like, oh, man, that’s crazy. I feel like they could come back for another year with us, but those are great guys [that] I enjoyed playing with as well.”


They’re still young guys, Reminder of how quickly this can go?

“Yeah, man. That’s what I’m saying time is flying. I was just talking to some people about how I’m going on year seven. I feel like I just came into the league, so time has definitely been flying and definitely gotta take advantage of all the opportunities that you’re given.”


I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to really talk to Justin Hardee yet, but just you being a Northeast Ohio guy who gets to play for your hometown team, him getting to come back here and get that opportunity. Can you speak to, like, how special that is and how excited you are to have him here?

“Yeah, definitely excited. I talked to him on the phone actually, with him signing here. So big Cleveland guy, he’s gonna be a great addition to the team. He’s an ace on the special teams, and they did a great job of getting him here. I think he’s going to definitely be a guy that gives us some great production out there.”


You talked about the hunger from, you know, the way last season ended. How many times have you watched that game since last season?

“Honestly, I haven’t even watched that game yet, so I haven’t watched it yet. Yeah, I just haven’t even got to it yet, honestly.”


Do you expect to get to it at some point, or is it one of those things best left?

“Yeah. I feel like that game is over with. Like, my focus going to be more so on the teams that we’re going to be playing coming up, and whoever that first game is going to be, that’s who I’m going to start watching film on. I do some self-evaluations once I watch the seasons film and everything, but I don’t know if I’m necessarily going to go back to that game just yet though.”


Denzel, you mentioned at the top, not just resting on the laurels of last year. Can’t just pick up where you left off, is that like a conversation that’s had among guys in meeting rooms, or is that something that guys just show up and they kind of already understand?

“No. Coaches, the whole organization kind of been saying that we set a great foundation last year and it was good, but like they’ve been saying, we can’t just think that it’s automatically going to click and we’re going to pick up where we left off. So even though we may, we’re just going to try to continue to build on top of it and continue to make the necessary steps to build and grow this team.”


Schedule is coming out probably in about a month or so. Have you gone down the roster of quarterbacks that you’re going to face this year?

“Not yet, but I know it’s going to be some great, talented quarterbacks out there, but I haven’t checked them out yet.”


Obviously, there’s a lot of talk about just, like, future of the stadium and where you guys can play eventually from here. What are your thoughts, on the idea of the stadium or maybe playing outside of downtown Cleveland?

“Yeah, that’s a great question for me, honestly like I said, I’m a Cleveland guy, so, I mean, I appreciate all the history that’s going into the stadium that we’re playing in currently. And like I said, I enjoy playing in the conditions and having the roof open and everything, like I said. But nothing’s wrong with change, though. If we end up deciding to move the stadium, I’ll be open to it wherever I could go play some football that I’m cool with.”