CLEVELAND — Browns two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward left practice during Thursday’s final day of veteran minicamp because of an apparent left foot injury.
Ward was checked out by Browns medical staff early into Thursday’s minicamp session and walked off slowly with his left cleat untied. He never returned to practice.
Browns coach Kevin Stefanski had not received an update when media availability started at the end of practice.
“I don’t have enough details to say (what happened) yet,” Stefanski said.
Ward earned the second Pro Bowl nod of his career last season when he started 15 games and intercepted three passes, one going for a 99-yard touchdown againts the Bengals in Cincinnati. His three interceptions tied a career single-season high. He finished the year with 43 tackles, 34 solo, and had one tackle for loss.
Ward signed a five-year, $100.5 million extension in April. The guaranteed money, at $44.5 million, is a record for a corner, while the $20.1 million yearly average was only recently surpassed by Jaire Alexander’s new deal with the Green Bay Packers.
He also made the Pro Bowl after his rookie season in 2018.
Cade York signs rookie contract
Browns rookie kicker Cade York signed his rookie contract after Thursday’s practice.
He agreed to a four-year standard rookie contract.
The 6-foot-1, 198-pound York was picked in the fourth round at No. 124 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft out of LSU. He is the highest drafted kicker since 2016 when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo in the second round.
The Browns have been on the search for a consistent presence at kicker since Phil Dawson. They spent draft picks in 2017 and 2019 on kickers in Arizona State’s Zane Gonzalez in the seventh round and Oklahoma’s Austin Seibert in the fifth round, respectively.
Chase McLaughlin was the starter last season and as a unit, Browns kickers converted just 72.7% of field-goal attempts which was the worst percentage in the NFL in 2022.
York made 15 field goals of 50-plus yards during his time at LSU, a school record. His long is 57 yards in 2020. York was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference kicker in 2021 as a junior and made 15-of-18 field goal and all 39 of his point-after attempts.
He left with a school-record 118 consecutive PATs made. He was a 2020 second-team All-American. He scored the most points by a kicker in college football during the 2019 season and trailed only Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor (156) for the most points that season.
York is the eighth 2022 draft pick to sign with the Browns. The only remaining unsigned draft pick is defensive tackle Perrion Winfrey, a fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma.
During Thursday’s practice, York was consistent in his attempts nailing six long-range field goals.
Red zone work the theme of the final day
Much of the Browns offensive work on the final day of minicamp was spent in the red zone during 11-on-11 drills.
Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson took many of the first-team reps and found tight end David Njoku multiple times for touchdowns. Second-year cornerback Herb Miller did intercept a Watson pass in the end zone for the only turnover of red zone work.
Time for some time off
It is vacation time for Stefanski and the rest of the Browns. Thursday was the end of the offseason schedule and the team will have more than a month off before reporting back in late July for practice.
“To get away,” Stefanski said as to what is next for him and his coaching staff. “The coaches have done a really nice job this offseason. Now is the time to recharge the battery, spend time with the family and make some visits.”
Stefanski praised his team for the work they put in during the week of mandatory minicamp. The Browns practiced in Berea on Tuesday and in Canton at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium on Wednesday (touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame), before concluding with a practice at FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday.
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“Great finish to the offseason program,” Stefanski said. “Really appreciate this group and how they worked going back to April 19 in the snow globe. The guys have done a really, really nice job. We have taxed them physically, we have taxed them mentally and really, we got a lot done. Are we where we need to be? No, but now is the time where we can take a break, go charge the battery and get ready to roll come July.”
Stefanski also invited Browns alumni to catch the final day of minicamp.
“We were fortunate to have some alumni out here today to visit with us, which we felt was really important,” Stefanski said. “We have talked a lot about our alumni over the course of these weeks so to be able to put some faces to the names and introduce the guys to some of these great players was a big deal. We are going to head inside and have a barbecue with the team with some of the alumni in there, as well.”
Browns alumni, including some Kardiac Kids, on hand Thursday
Kardiac Kids legends Greg Pruitt, Cleo Miller and Judge Dick Ambrose were among the Browns alumni on hand for practice and the barbecue. Other former Browns there Thursday were D’Qwell Jackson, Steve Zahursky, Travis Tucker, Rick Lyle, David Mays, Kevin Mack, Ben Davis, Darius Hillary, Bob Golic and Anthony Griggs. Also Mike James, son of Browns alumnus and Massillon legend Tommy James, attended.
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Kevin Stefanski has high praise for quarterback Josh Dobbs
Third-string quarterback Josh Dobbs found some playing time in 11-on-11 drills and while he has impressed Stefanski on the field, his intelligence has stood out to the third-year head coach.
“I don’t know what the definition is, but he is pretty darn close [to genius],” Stefanski said. “He is a really good guy and I enjoy being around Josh. He knows a lot about football and a lot about a lot really. He is an impressive young man.”
Dobbs graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in aerospace engineering, so his book smarts have been welcomed in the quarterback room.
As a unit, Watson, backup Jacoby Brissett and Dobbs have given Stefanski reason to be confident in no matter who is under center in Week 1 of the season.
“They have come very far,” Stefanski said. “In the nine weeks we were together, their understanding of the scheme and the operation of things like the functioning of in and out of the huddle with different snap counts and schemes. We have thrown a lot at them and they have done a nice job and worked very hard.”
During a team bonding day at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, home of the Cavaliers, Brissett showed off his shooting touch winning a team contest. Like in the shooting contest, Brissett has been all business during preseason camps.
“He is a good basketball player,” Stefanski said with a smile. “… But he is a good person and we knew that doing our homework on him. I have been very impressed by how he operates in practice and treats the game the right way.”
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Browns two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward leaves practice