Browns' safety Ward upset over fine for hit

Browns' safety Ward upset over fine for hit

BEREA, Ohio (AP) Browns safety T.J. Ward opened the letter from the NFL and quickly scanned it for one important detail: the price of his punishment.

Once he located that number, he moved on.

``I didn't want it to ruin the rest of my day,'' he said.

Ward was fined $25,000 for an illegal hit he delivered on Sunday against Dallas wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, a penalty the hard-hitting defensive back is appealing and one he insists was well within the league's rules on helmet-to-helmet contact. Ward said replays conclusively show he did not touch any part of Ogletree's head.

``I think it was completely legal,'' Ward 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 hit at any part, it was probably the aftereffect or the end of the hit. I think it was just a blown call and a blown punishment.''

Ward, who was fined $15,000 in 2010 for a nasty hit on Cincinnati wide receiver Jordan Shipley, was called for unnecessary roughness for the shot on Ogletree. The 15-yard personal foul aided the Cowboys' drive that set up a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds of regulation. Dallas went on to win 23-20 in overtime.

Ogletree sustained a concussion and has been ruled out of Thursday's game against Washington. Browns cornerback Buster Skrine also suffered a concussion during the play when he collided with Ogletree just after Ward delivered his blow. Skrine did not practice and Browns coach Pat Shurmur said the second-year player ``is going through the (concussion) process.''

Ward was adamant he did nothing wrong. He said the crackdown on hits to the head is making it tough for him - or any defensive player - to be aggressive.

``It's ridiculous,'' he said. ``I could see if I came under him, like the Shipley hit. By the rules, I deserved that fine. I hit him under his helmet, under his face mask. This one, not at all. I hit him in his chest. Freeze frame, you can see the pictures and everything, it's in his chest. My head is completely to the side. It's almost like he's over my shoulder.''

Ward's fine came one day after Baltimore safety Ed Reed's one-game suspension for several helmet-to-helmet hits was reduced to a $50,000 fine.

Reed had been suspended one game without pay for his third violation in three seasons against defenseless players. On Sunday night, Reed drilled Pittsburgh wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

Ward was also fined for being a repeat offender, which he finds illogical.

``I could see if it was a repeat offense in the same year, that makes sense,'' he said. ``But repeat offense from three years ago? C'mon, man.''

Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron defended Ward, who was flagged in a Nov. 4 game for striking Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the head. He was not fined for that hit. Jauron said he won't instruct Ward to play any differently, but he said it is becoming increasingly difficult to coach players on what's acceptable.

``I think just keep doing what he's doing. I saw the replays multiple times and I didn't see any head-to-head contact on that play,'' Jauron said. ``I don't know if anybody else did. I don't know what you tell him. They have to figure it out. I don't know what you tell the defensive player today.''

Ward believes Commissioner Roger Goodell and league officials are taking the correct steps in trying to minimize hits to the head in order to improve player safety.

However, he believes the rules changes have given offensive players an unfair advantage and that defenders are being unfairly judged on plays where split-second decisions are made.

``I think the quarterbacks are just as responsible as us,'' he said. ``They throw the balls, they try to fit them into tight spots and we have to react. If you look at it, defensive players are fined way more than offensive players. We're put in the worst predicaments. We can't hit them. We can't grab them. We can't do anything. It's hard to play football and it's very hard to play defense.''

Ward intended to hit Ogletree low, knowing that any contact near the head could be penalized.

``I aimed at a certain spot and he continued to fall,'' he said. ``He fell right into me. It was almost a protection of myself. I just turned my shoulder. I didn't really even explode into him. It's a bind. I could see if I was running from the middle of the field and he was running a slant or something and I just hit him underneath his chin, but that wasn't the case at all.''

Ward doesn't think he's a marked man, but conceded his reputation as a big hitter may influence calls. He said some officiating crews seem more inclined to call penalties for high hits. He watched Sunday's Baltimore-Pittsburgh game and felt there were similar shots to the one he laid on Ogletree that weren't whistled.

Ward said Goodell's push to minimize head hits is noble, but he doesn't think it's making much of a difference in an inherently violent sport.

``The funny thing is, it won't change it,'' he said. ``Things are going to happen. The next thing is you're going to see guys with blown out knees because they're going to start to get hit low and before you know it, that's going to be illegal and we'll start getting fined for that. You can't hit quarterbacks below the knee. I think it's taking away from the game.''

NOTES: Browns CB Joe Haden returned to practice after missing last week's game with an oblique injury. Shurmur hopes to have Haden back for Sunday's game against the Steelers, who will start 37-year-old quarterback Charlie Batch. ... CB Dimitri Patterson did not practice. He had hoped to test an ankle injury that has sidelined him for five games. ... Undrafted special teamer Johnson Bademosi was picked to be the fourth captain for this week's game. Because of injuries, he took snaps at cornerback for the first time against the Cowboys.

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Looking at the Ravens roster locks heading into OTA's

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Looking at the Ravens roster locks heading into OTA's

With 90 players on their roster, the Ravens need plenty of trimming to reach the 53-man limit by Week 1 against the Bills. Heading into OTA’s that start on Tuesday, and before some unfortunate injuries that are bound to occur, here are the players I see as locks to make the roster:

Offense: (21)

Quarterback (2) – Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett

Running back (3) – Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon

Fullback (1) – Kyle Juszczyk

Tight end (3) – Crockett Gillmore, Ben Watson, Maxx Williams

Wide receiver (5) – Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore

Offensive line (7) – Marshal Yanda, Ronnie Stanley, Jeremy Zuttah, Rick Wagner, John Urschel, Ryan Jensen, Alex Lewis

It’s going to be an interesting battle at running back, with Lorenzo Taliaferro, Terrance West, and Trent Richardson vying for a spot, and Forsett being pushed to keep his starting job. I don’t see the Ravens cutting Forsett, even if he doesn’t start. If Dennis Pitta is cleared for contact, I would expect he’d make the roster at tight end. If the Ravens don’t release or trade Eugene Monroe, he’ll likely be the starting left tackle, with Stanley playing left guard. Maybe I shouldn’t make Lewis and Moore locks, but it would surprise me to see either fourth-round draft pick getting cut. The wide receiver competition will be intense. Michael Campanaro, Kaelin Clay, and rookie Keenan Reynolds are also part of a crowded wide receiver field.

RELATED: BRADY TO PETITION FOR REHEARING ON DEFLATEGATE SUSPENSION

Defense (20)

Defensive line: (7) - Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban, Bronson Kaufusi, Carl Davis, Willie Henry

Linebacker  - (7) C. J. Mosley, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Za’Darius Smith, Kamalei Correa, Zach Orr, Albert McClellan

Defensive back (6) – Jimmy Smith, Eric Weddle, Shareece Wright,  Lardarius Webb, Tavon Young, Jerraud Powers

I think pass rusher Matt Judon (fifth-round pick) will make it, but too early to call him a lock. The defensive backfield will be most interesting. I’m tempted to call safety Kendrick Lewis a lock, but I won’t this early. The same holds true for safety Terrence Brooks and cornerback Kyle Arrington. Matt Elam is fighting to win a spot at safety, but he has been major disappointment so far as a former first-round pick.

Special teams (3)

Justin Tucker (K), Sam Koch (P), Morgan Cox (LS)

That makes 44 roster locks by my count, leaving nine spots wide open. Get ready for an interesting spring and summer. Coming off a 5-11 season, playing time is up for grabs at many positions.

MORE RAVENS: HOW PRODUCTIVE WILL THE RAVENS' TIGHT ENDS BE IN 2016?

Brady to petition for rehearing on Deflategate suspension

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Brady to petition for rehearing on Deflategate suspension

New England quarterback Tom Brady will file a petition to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday for a second hearing in the never-ending saga that is Deflategate. NFL Players Association attorney Theodore B. Olson made the announcement on "Good Morning America" on Monday.

The court reinstated Brady's four-game suspension in April by a 2-1 decision, ruling that the punishment was fair and within Roger Goodell's authority as determined by the collective bargaining agreement.

Brady is now filing for a rehearing of the appeal in front of the full panel of judges on the court. The panel consists of 13 judges, but only three were assigned to the original hearing. Seven of the 13 judges would have to agree to hear the case. Normally that would be a long shot, but, as Pro Football Talk points out, the Chief Judge was the one judge who sided with Brady in the original hearing.

If you're hoping Brady's petition is denied just so we can be finished with this, then I've got some bad news. If the petition is denied, Brady can file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court. And o course, you would have to expect Brady's legal team to file for a stay, delaying the suspension until the case is finally resolved.

Regardless, it looks like this is going to continue to drag on.

RELATED: HOW PRODUCTIVE WILL THE RAVENS' TIGHT ENDS BE IN 2016?

How productive will the Ravens' tight ends be in 2016?

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How productive will the Ravens' tight ends be in 2016?

How productive will the Ravens’ tight end-by-committee system be?

That’s another key question for the Ravens as they head into on-field OTA’s this week. Regardless of what happens with Dennis Pitta, who is trying to come back from his second major hip injury, the Ravens are deep at tight end. They signed Ben Watson during free agency, and have drafted three tight ends since 2014 – Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, and Nick Boyle.

However, with Boyle facing a 10-game suspension due to his second PED violation, the Ravens know he won’t see game action until at least November. Meanwhile, Gillmore had offseason shoulder surgery, leaving his readiness for Week 1 still uncertain.

If the season began today, the Ravens would be leaning on Watson and Williams. The addition of Watson during free agency indicates the tight end position will remain a priority in the Ravens attack. Watson is coming off a career-best season with the Saints – 74 catches for 825 yards and six touchdowns. The Ravens should not expect Watson to duplicate that at age 35. But Watson’s reliability in third down and red zone situations gives Joe Flacco another veteran to target in clutch situations.

Still only 22 years, Williams struggled at times as a rookie (32 catches, 268 yards, one touchdown), but his play improved as the season progressed. The Ravens will take a close look at Williams this offseason, hoping they will see more consistency from their second-round pick in 2015.

Ravens offensive coordinator Marc Trestman likes throwing to tight ends, and so does Flacco. The Ravens don’t have a prolific tight end like Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker, or Greg Olsen, who all topped 1,000 yards in receiving last season. However, the Ravens want to mix two tight-end sets into their attack on a regular basis, making depth at that position important.

The Ravens got a combined 83 catches and five touchdowns from their tight ends last year. In 2016, they will be counting on those numbers to rise.

MORE RAVENS: WHERE IS FORMER RAVEN BOLDIN HEADING TO NEXT?