Before we talk about the reasons why the Browns won against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, we must first address the biggest issue of the day: rookie safety T.J. Ward’s hit on Bengals receiver Jordan Shipley. In the fourth quarter with the Browns up 23-13, the Bengals were driving deep in Browns territory and quarterback Carson Palmer threw a pass into the end zone intended for Shipley.
The pass was going to be incomplete, but Ward was already aiming to put a big hit on Shipley. Ward had to assume that Shipley was going to make the catch – which he almost did – so he had to hit him regardless. The outcry now, mostly from the Bengals, is that it was a cheap shot, because Ward’s hit knocked Shipley out of the game with a concussion.
Some even want to call it a dirty hit, but there was nothing that indicated that this was a move intended to hurt the Bengals’ rookie receiver. It is obvious from the replays that Ward leads with his shoulder and while it is unfortunate that his shoulder hits Shipley in the helmet, there was nothing malicious about it. Besides, would anyone really expect Ward to be able to stop? He made up his mind to hit Shipley (which is what a defensive player is supposed to do) and was making a textbook play.
I never want to see players get hurt, and concussions are especially dangerous. The league is doing the right thing by trying to get rid of helmet-to-helmet collisions, but it’s important that the league allows its players to play without fear of punishment for doing what they are paid to do. A fine will most likely be administered to Ward, but that shouldn’t stop him from being the aggressive player that he is.
One thing is for sure: Browns fans are taking a liking to Ward quickly. The hard-hitting rookie is just what the secondary needs, and no one in Cleveland will be upset with a defensive player delivering a huge hit, especially on a division rival.