The mere mention of Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown’s name, however, causes him to pour on the praise.
“Oh man, he’s a tough player — mentally tough, physically tough, tough all the way around,” Ward said of his fellow defensive back.
“Sheldon does everything you can want from a guy on the field, but he also does what he needs to off of it to stay mentally ready.
He’s a mentor and a real pro for this team.”
As Ward eloquently stated of Brown, the eight-year veteran is one of the toughest athletes in the NFL — and has a streak of 137 consecutive games played to prove it.
Despite suffering a neck stinger four days ago against the New York Jets, Brown plans on being active Sunday when Cleveland travels to Jacksonville.
“I feel good, a lot better than I did when it happened,” the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder said Wednesday. “My strength is pretty good and all the MRIs and X-rays came back fine.
“(The hit) was like a car crash you don’t want to be part of, but it was just a freak accident. That’s football.”
Brown suffered the frightening injury on a collision with Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards in the first quarter of New York’s 26-20 overtime victory. Edwards led with his helmet in making contact with the left collarbone of Brown, who went down like he had been shot on the grass.
It marked the first time in Brown’s pro career that he had left a game early, but the psychological toll was probably worse than the physical damage. “It made me realize that every play could be my last,” he said softly. “That’s the thing that has stuck with me. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday kind of stink every week, but Sunday is a fun day. I always have appreciated what I do for a living, but this made me feel even more that way.”
Brown was held out of practice Wednesday for precautionary reasons, but stressed that he would have “given it a great effort to play” had it been a game day. He did admit to being very uncomfortable and having difficulty turning his head to the left.
“I wish I was out there with my guys today, but believe me, I’ll be there mentally,” said Brown, who has started 104 of his last 105 games. “That’s one part of the game that I never take lightly. I know how important it is to be mentally prepared every week.”
Browns coach Eric Mangini said he was optimistic Brown would get in at least one workout before the end of the week and take the field against the Jaguars.
If that occurs, Brown would maintain the third-longest games played streak among NFL defensive backs, only trailing Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber (201) and the New York Giants’ Deon Grant (153).
It also would mean Cleveland’s secondary has a fighting chance of stopping Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard and top wideouts Mike Sims-Walker and Mike Thomas, who have been on a roll of late.
Since the Browns’ other starting cornerback is the badly struggling Eric Wright, the thought of not having Brown on the field is a concern.
“I’m very blessed and I haven’t missed one yet,” said Brown, whose streak began on opening day as a rookie with Philadelphia in 2002. “If I can play, then I’m going to play. Playing football is what I love to do.”
- Who: Cleveland at Jacksonville
- When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
- Where: EverBank Field, Jacksonville, Fla.
- TV/radio: Channel 19; WMMS 100.7-FM, WTAM 1100-AM.