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Marla Ridenour on Sports

Is T.J. Ward too aggressive?

By Marla Published: October 4, 2010

When the Browns drafted safety T.J. Ward with the 38th overall pick in April, general manager Tom Heckert admitted he was attracted to Ward because of his infectious hitting and enthusiasm.

''No question about it,'' Heckert said. "That's the first thing you notice when you watch him. He's lighting people up and that's an intriguing thing for us.''

But after Ward lit up Bengals rookie receiver Jordan Shipley in the end zone Sunday, a hit that drew a personal foul and left Shipley with a concussion, Browns president Mike Holmgren may have tried to rein in Ward a little bit. The two were seen conferring after the Browns' 23-20 home victory.

''He was just telling me just be careful out there and try to be smart about situations like that,'' Ward said Sunday.

Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and receiver Terrell Owens called the hit '''a cheap shot,'' according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

''I think it was a ridiculous play,” Owens told the Enquirer. "The guy is defenseless and I hate to see a guy hit like that. The ball had already bounced off and for him to take a cheap shot like that was uncalled for.

"To see a guy get hit like that -- and at one point I thought he was out cold. He was real groggy with his eyes rolling to the back of his head. You never want to see a teammate in that situation. I just hate it.''

Palmer told the Enquirer, ''It’s a cheap shot and a shot that shouldn’t happen.''

Ward said afterward that he would not change in style of play, even if he's fined by the league Friday, which seems a certainty.

"I'm going to try to be more precise where I hit him, but it's not going to change how I play,'' Ward said. Pressed about a possible league fine, he said, ''I'm not saying that. I'm going to try to hit him where I can't get a fine. I believe I led with my shoulder. I may have got a little helmet, but I didn't lead with my helmet. I didn't try to hit him under his helmet at all.''

Veteran Browns linebackers don't want Ward to tame his violent style.

'' T.J.'s an aggressive kid. He's going to play like that, we don't want to slow him down at all,'' David Bowens said.

Eric Barton chimed in, ''He'll rip your face off.''

Since the Browns returned in 1999, I've been saying they needed a ''hammer,'' a defensive player to set an aggressive tone like the Ravens' Ed Reed or the Steelers' Troy Polamalu. Now that the Browns have found the thumper they've long lacked, they must help Ward learn when and how to take chances with big hits. And Ward must be willing to pay the price.

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