BEREA — Safety T.J. Ward was dismayed Wednesday after receiving a $25,000 fine from the league office for an illegal hit to the head of Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree on Sunday.
“It’s not even fair,” Ward said. “It’s not fair at all and if you look at the hit a thousand times it’s not an illegal hit at all.”
Ward was penalized 15 yards for what referee Ed Hochuli called unnecessary roughness for contact to the helmet of Ogletree. Ward went shoulder to shoulder with his head to the side, but Ogletree’s head moved upon impact and there appeared to be contact between helmets. Ogletree and cornerback Buster Skrine sustained concussions on the play after a second collision.
The league reviewed the play and thought a fine was appropriate. Ward disagreed.
“I think it was completely legal,” he said. “I aimed for his chest, I hit him in his chest, he was falling forward. No part of my helmet hit his helmet. No part of my shoulder pad hit his helmet. If it did at any part, it was probably the aftereffect or the end of the hit.
“But you know I think it was just a blown call and a blown punishment by me getting fined.”
Ward was upset for a variety of reasons and is appealing.
He said the fine was more money than he takes home in a week. Before taxes, 1/17th of his $540,000 salary is $31,764.
“We’re out here to try to make a living and we’re just playing a game, not trying to hurt anybody and you’re hindering our ability to play the game and feed our families,” he said. “I think it’s just ridiculous.”
In the letter announcing the fine, the league referred to him as a repeat offender. He was fined $15,000 as a rookie in 2010 for a hit to the helmet of Bengals receiver Jordan Shipley.
“It wasn’t even similar to the hit I had before,” Ward said. “I could see if it was a repeat offense in the same year, that makes sense. But a repeat offense from three years ago? C’mon, man. That’s like somebody taking half your paycheck for a typo.”
Finally, Ward doesn’t like where the NFL is headed. The rules already benefit the offenses to promote scoring, and penalties like this further tie the hands of the defense.
“I wouldn’t say it’s ruining (the game), but it’s making it hard to play,” said Ward, who doesn’t think he has a reputation as a dirty player or is being targeted by officials. “You got to be real timid on defense.”
Coordinator Dick Jauron said Ward should “keep doing what he’s doing” and his staff will keep coaching the same way.
“I don’t know what you tell the defensive player today,” he said. “All we tell our entire defense is don’t ever intentionally hit another player in the head or the neck. Don’t hit the quarterback intentionally in the knees in the pocket. Other than that, you’ve just got to play.”
Cornerback Joe Haden returned to practice in a limited capacity after missing the 23-20 overtime loss to the Cowboys.
He strained an oblique Nov. 14 and missed practice last Thursday and Friday. He warmed up before the game but couldn’t go. The Browns are 0-5 when Haden doesn’t play this year.
Even with the return of Haden, the Browns were short-handed at corner because Dimitri Patterson (ankle) and Skrine (concussion) didn’t practice.
Patterson continued to increase his rehab workload Tuesday but will miss his sixth straight game.
Skrine, who started for Haden against the Cowboys, is “working through the process” of neurological tests, coach Pat Shurmur said.
If Haden can go, he and Sheldon Brown would start. If Skrine can’t play, rookie Trevin Wade would be the nickelback with rookie Johnson Bademosi available of the bench.
• Safety/special teamer Ray “Bubba” Ventrone (calf) didn’t practice.
• Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf/back) and receiver Josh Cooper (knee) were limited.
• For the Steelers, quarterbacks Ben Roethlisberger (right shoulder) and Byron Leftwich (ribs), receiver Jerricho Cotchery (ribs), safety Troy Polamalu (calf), tackle Marcus Gilbert (ankle) and defensive end Evander Hood (back) didn’t practice.
Receiver Antonio Brown (ankle) was limited.
A bad man
Bademosi, undrafted out of Stanford, was chosen the game captain for Sunday against the Steelers. Bademosi leads the team with 12 special teams tackles and saw his first action on defense Sunday after Skrine’s injury.
“To be voted by my teammates as a captain, it’s a blessing,” Bademosi said.
Jauron believes Bademosi can develop into a reliable cornerback.
“He’s very into it and clearly he’s a very tough guy,” Jauron said. “He wants to do it as well as you can possibly do it. He works at it all the time.”
The Browns took some ribbing when their official Twitter page posted a picture of the giveaway planned for Sunday’s matchup with Pittsburgh.
“Arrive early Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a Browns Inflatable Flag courtesy of @NFLtixExchange,” read the caption.
The flag is white, and Deadspin.com couldn’t resist taking a shot at the Browns.
Receiver/special teamer Joshua Cribbs still believes he should play more on offense, but has “an understanding” with Shurmur after a talk last week following Cribbs’ comments he felt “caged” and deserved to play more.
“I’m behind my teammates 100 percent and I have to help coach them up and get them in the right place they need to be,” he said. “Then I have to do my thing on special teams, that’s how I help this football team. I’m committed to it 100 percent. I give 110 percent effort out there on the field and that’s all I can do.”
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