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|BEREA Mike Smith Jersey , Ohio (AP) Denzel Ward gets things done quickly.
One of the rookie cornerback’s first goals was to earn a starting job. Check. Next was paying off the mortgage on his mom’s house. Check. Then it was signing his NFL contract and reporting to training camp on time. Done.
Now he wants to help the Browns win. OK, that may take a minute.
But to this point, nothing has slowed the speedy Ward, who has impressed his teammates and Cleveland’s coaches. After an eye-popping spring camp, the former Ohio State All-American has joined the first-team defense, and the Browns believe the 21-year-old is ready for the weekly challenge of covering elite wide receivers.
Ward’s up for it.
”I’m very comfortable in who I am as a player,” he said Friday without the slightest trace of arrogance. ”I’m a fast player.”
While Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback selected first overall by the Browns, waits his turn behind Tyrod Taylor, Ward’s already on the field.
And there’s no reason to think he won’t stay there.
Ward stood out during the Browns’ first training camp practice on Thursday with several solid plays. He made a leaping interception down the sideline in front of three-time Pro Bowler Jarvis Landry during 11-on-11 drills, and Ward looked comfortable whether in goal-line situations or third-and-longs.
He did get beat on a go route by fellow rookie Antonio Callaway, who made a late adjustment to haul in a deep pass from Mayfield.
The catch drew applause from Browns fans, but Ward said the reception probably wouldn’t have counted in a game.
”I think he stepped out of bounds,” Ward said, smiling. ”They caught it with the camera from over here Daryl Johnston Jersey , so they didn’t really see it, but that was a great catch. He can definitely run.”
So can Ward, whose quickness and ability to play man-to-man ”press” coverage is what made him so appealing to the Browns, who surprised many draft experts by taking him so high after he was projected to be picked later in the first round.
His high profile notwithstanding, Ward has shown a willingness to work and improve since the day he arrived.
”He’s pretty quiet off the field,” said linebacker Christian Kirksey. ”He’s not a person that is going to sit there and just talk all day. He’s going to do his job. He’s going to do it to the best of his ability. He’s very coachable. I believe that once he really gets comfortable with his role of being a lockdown corner, I think that the sky’s the limit for him.”
Ward has immersed himself in Cleveland’s playbook, and beyond watching daily practice film, he’s been taking a peek at tape of some future opponents.
The Browns open the season on Sept. 9 against Pittsburgh, which means Ward will make his regular-season debut against Steelers star Antonio Brown, widely considered the league’s best all-around receiver.
”The game’s not too big for him,” coach Hue Jackson said. ”Those moments are not too big for him. He’s going to face some of the best receivers in the league. Think of the first game of the year, playing Antonio Brown, the best guy on the planet. So you better have real thick skin, and he has that.”
It’s helped Ward to prepare for Brown that he’s been going head-to-head with Landry and Josh Gordon Ryan Miller Jersey , who is currently away from the team to address health problems.
Ward said he’s not intimidated by any matchup.
”Those guys are elite players, great guys and players,” Ward said. ”But we all put our shoes and pants on the same way, and just come out here and work.”
Ward was the final member of Cleveland’s rookie class to sign, finalizing his four-year, $29 million contract on Wednesday a day before players reported.
The deal includes a $19 million signing bonus, and the financial security prompted Ward, who grew up just outside Cleveland, to pay off the mortgage for his mother, Nicole. Ward’s father, Paul, died two years ago.
”My mom has done a lot for me,” he said. ”So whatever I can do to make things easier for my mom, I’m down to do it.”
He has everything covered.
NOTES: Greg Robinson, competing with Shon Coleman to replace Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas Andre Holmes Jersey , was carted off with a head injury and will be evaluated. … LB Mychal Kendricks participated in team drills for the first time since undergoing offseason ankle surgery. He was signed as a free agent in June after winning a Super Bowl with Philadelphia. … The team signed DL Zaycoven Henderson and WR Blake Jackson.
A man convicted in the shooting death of retired New Orleans Saints star Will Smith has appealed the conviction and 25-year-sentence arising from a confrontation after a 2016 traffic collision.
Cardell Hayes was convicted of manslaughter in December 2016 in Smith's death and of attempted manslaughter because Smith's wife, Raquel, was shot in both legs during the encounter in April of that year.
But Hayes' attorney Paul Barker wrote in an appeal filed Thursday that the judge who tried Hayes should have granted a new trial because a witness who contacted Barker the day after Hayes' conviction said he had heard two guns at the time of the shooting, buttressing Hayes' claim that he had fired in self-defense.
Prosecutors on Friday rejected the arguments as "falsehoods."
Hayes' lawyers had argued at trial that he only fired because the retired NFL player was drunk and violent and had grabbed a gun following their collision. No one else testified Smith ever held a gun. A loaded .9-mm semi-automatic handgun was found loaded but unused on the front seat of Smith's car.
Barker's appeal Thursday also contended the trial judge, Camille Buras, should have allowed testimony about Smith's 2010 arrest on a domestic abuse charge. That would have shown he could be violent when drunk, Barker wrote. Barker also wrote in the filing that other errors included allowing victim impact testimony before the trial's sentencing phase, and by "suggestively" re-reading jury instructions.
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said in a statement Friday that prosecutors had proved Hayes' guilt and that Buras managed "this difficult trial fairly and impeccably."
"The falsehoods within this appeal make only one thing clear: That Cardell Hayes has yet to accept the consequences of his rash decision to open fire on an innocent couple," the emailed statement said. It added that Hayes' latest arguments make clear he "has yet to begin the rehabilitation necessary to one day return as a responsible and law-abiding member of our community."
Smith, a 34-year-old father of three, was a defensive leader on the Saints team that lifted spirits in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. He helped carry the team to a winning season in 2006 and a Super Bowl victory four years later. His death in a dispute over traffic was shocking, even for a city with a high rate of homicides.
In his filing Thursday, Barker said a new witness, Michael Burnside, emailed him the last day of the trial Alex Tuch Jersey Kids , when he was not checking email because he was "preoccupied with closing arguments and jury deliberations." The email said Burnside had heard two guns at the time Smith was shot. Reached the next day, Burnside said he had heard four "baps" consistent with a small-caliber gun before a "boom" consistent with a larger-caliber weapon like Hayes'.
"Mr. Burnside states that the first "boom" of the larger caliber weapon overlapped the last "bap" of the smaller caliber weapon," Barker wrote. That backs up Hayes' testimony that Smith fired at him first, he said.
Barker also said the judge didn't let trial lawyer John Fuller question retired Saints running back Deuce McAllister, the first prosecution witness, about Smith's "arrest for abusing Raquel Smith while out at a bar in Lafayette."
Smith was arrested outside a bar, accused of pulling his wife down the street by her hair. He was indicted in 2011 on misdemeanor charges of domestic abuse battery and public intoxication. Lafayette Parish prosecutors dropped the charges in 2012 after Smith completed community service and participated in counseling.
McAlister had testified about Smith's good character, opening the way to rebuttal testimony which the judge didn't allow, Barker wrote.
"The state elicited pages of testimony from Deuce McAllister detailing the good moral qualities of the victim, the tremendous impact on the victim's family, and the impact on the New Orleans Saints franchise," he wrote.
He said that "went beyond the proper scope of examination," causing prejudice against Hayes and violating his right to a fair trial.