NFL hits Browns safety T.J. Ward with fine

T.J. Ward’s ”cheap shot” was costly.

For delivering a nasty blow to an opponent’s head, the NFL

belted the Browns’ rookie safety in the wallet.

Ward, who in just four games as a pro has developed a reputation

as a ferocious tackler and fearless talker, was fined $15,000

Wednesday for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cincinnati wide receiver

Jordan Shipley during the fourth quarter of the Browns’ win on

Sunday.

Ward confirmed he was fined, but he would not divulge the

amount. However, a person familiar with the situation told The

Associated Press that the league assessed Ward the $15,000 penalty

for ramming Shipley, who was knocked out briefly and sustained a

concussion.

The league will not announce its discipline on Ward until

Friday.

A split-second after Shipley failed to catch a pass from Bengals

quarterback Carson Palmer in the end zone, Ward unloaded on the

rookie wideout, sending him sprawling to the turf. Ward claims he

led with his right shoulder, but TV replays clearly show him making

contact with Shipley’s helmet.

”I just tried to make a play and unfortunately he got hurt,”

Ward said before practice. ”It’s part of the violent game we play.

If you play that position, it kind of comes with the

territory.”

The Bengals weren’t pleased and following the game, both Palmer

and wide receiver Terrell Owens accused Ward of a dirty play.

”I just hate to see a guy get hit like that in the head,”

Owens said. ”For him to take a cheap shot like that, that’s

uncalled for.”

Browns coach Eric Mangini defended Ward, saying it was an

aggressive play – nothing more.

Owens countered with a personal shot at Mangini.

”Look who it’s coming from,” Owens told Bengals teammate Chad

Ochocinco in an interview on VERSUS in advance of the premiere of

the ”The T.Ocho Show.” ”Probably 90 percent of his players don’t

like him (Mangini) anyway. ”I don’t like him. We got to see him

again anyway, so we’ll see who’s going to do some cheap shots next

game.

”Hit me like that.”

The Browns visit the Bengals on Dec. 19.

Ward insists he didn’t intentionally try to injure Shipley. As

he came across the end zone, Ward said he saw the ball and Shipley

and acted instinctively.

”It wasn’t malicious intent to knock him out or get him hurt,”

Ward said. ”It’s part of the game. I reacted to what I saw and

tried to make a play. I didn’t really try to hit him with

everything I had, but still it was a pretty violent hit. I wasn’t

trying to aim for his helmet in any way.

”I just hit what I saw, it all happened so fast.”

It may have been a blur, but with the league determined to clean

up unnecessary contact to player’s head in the wake of new studies

on concussions, Ward may need to closely monitor his future

on-field conduct. He may not deserve a head hunter’s label or to be

cast as a dirty player, but it’s likely officials will be aware of

Ward’s actions as the season progresses.

Undersized at 5-foot-10, Ward made Oregon’s team as a walk-on.

He wound up playing 37 games for the Ducks, catching the eye of pro

scouts because of his ability to punish running backs, wide

receivers and quarterbacks. He never backed off, and he has no

plans to stop playing the only way he knows.

Ward was aware that Mike Pereira, former NFL vice president of

officiating, said in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer

that the league should fine the 23-year-old a minimum of $25,000

for a hit he described as ”one of the worst I’ve seen in a

while.”

The Browns haven’t had a defensive back who could hit like Ward

since safety Eric Turner in the 1990s. Mangini wants his team to be

physical, and from experience, he knows that having a safety who

can deliver knee-buckling hits can make receivers wary of coming

over the middle.

”Legally, you want guys to think, ‘OK, if I catch this in cut,

there’s going to be a price to pay for catching this,”’ Mangini

said. ”If you can establish that, then sometimes guys will get

alligator arms or they won’t run those angles quite as deep or as

tight.

”No one would ever admit, ‘Man, I don’t really want to go in

there.’ If you can get an understanding with receivers, it

helps.”

Not surprisingly, the Browns didn’t have any issues with Ward’s

big hit. If anyone of them had a right to be upset, it’s rookie

quarterback Colt McCoy. Shipley was McCoy’s teammate at Texas and

the best man at his wedding. But even he didn’t think Ward’s hit

was beyond reason.

”It’s a violent sport,” McCoy said. ”We all know that there’s

gonna be contact. Nobody ever wants to get hurt, and nobody ever

wants to hurt anybody. It was a good hit. Jordan knows. He’s played

receiver his whole life. There’s a chance that when you go across

the middle, that you’re gonna have to take a big shot, a big lick,

and he got one.”