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Notes: Denzel Ward believes by attending OTAs he shows leadership, sets example

BEREA — Denzel Ward made it a point to attend and participate in organized team activities. While many of the Browns’ other highest-paid players skipped the voluntary practice sessions, including Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio, David Njoku and Dalvin Tomlinson, Ward was a constant on the field.

“The Browns drafted me to be a leader on this team and that’s a way that I show my leadership coming into OTAs,” the three-time Pro Bowl cornerback said Wednesday after the second of three mandatory minicamp practices. “I just try to come in and help show the guys what it’s supposed to look like and how it’s supposed to go and if they got questions.

“But I’m still out here working on my game, as well. And what better way than to come out here and do that with your guys and your coaches and everything. So just out here learning, trying to get better, but just trying to set a great example.”

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Ward, the No. 4 pick in 2018, has taken third-year cornerback Martin Emerson Jr. under his wing. Ward believes showing up for OTAs has an impact on the younger guys.

“I think it brings us all together. It brings us all in,” he said. “If they see a veteran like myself come in, I think they look like, ‘OK, if he’s in here, then I probably should come back, as well, and get some work in with everybody.’”

The Browns had the No. 1-ranked defense last season after good attendance in the offseason to learn new coordinator Jim Schwartz’s scheme. Ward thinks that mattered, and knows the sledding could be tougher this year with a schedule full of standout quarterbacks.

“We’ve got a saying in the locker room that everything affects everything,” he said. “So even coming out here for OTAs and minicamps, that all makes a difference. We definitely don’t take none of this lightly, we come out here, get better and we’ve got a tough road ahead, but I think we’ll be prepared for it.”

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Ward, 27, can’t believe he’s starting his seventh season.

“I don’t feel old personally. It is crazy, though,” he said. “That’s why I be telling them all the time, time be flying, man.”

NOT AROUND

No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper continued his holdout. He’s in the last year of his contract and wants an extension.

“He has his reasons,” tight end David Njoku said. “I’m sure the Browns are in (conversation) with him. I’m sure they’re communicating, so I’m not really too worried about it. As long as he’s there by September, Week 1, that’s all we’re worried about.”

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Cooper has 150 catches for 2,410 yards and 14 touchdowns in two seasons with the Browns.

“He’s a beast, a true beast, so we’re very glad to have him,” Njoku said.

Backup wideout Michael Woods II said Cooper’s been one of the best in the league since he was drafted No. 4 by the Raiders in 2015.

“Nobody’s really worried about his preparation or him not being here,” Woods told The Chronicle-Telegram. “It gives us a chance to get some reps, honestly. So I’m thankful for this situation right now to get those extra reps. I’m sure Amari’s doing his own thing, getting ready for the season, as well.”

REMEMBERING A LEGEND

NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, who died Wednesday at 86 years old, talked to the Browns last year during their stay in Los Angeles.

“I loved his message and definitely still had a lot of energy, still had a lot of life to give and wisdom,” said Garrett, a huge basketball fan who owns a minority share of the Cavaliers. “So my condolences are with the West family. I know he meant a lot to that community out there, and it’s a sad day for the NBA and the NBA family and prayers out for them.”

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Garrett shared West’s message to the team.

“He talked about the grit and the team bonding that it takes to really get there, how much you really have to stick together and how much resilience it takes to weather an entire season and really make it to the end,” Garrett said. “Every team is talented, but how much are you willing to take to get to where you want?”

IN THE MIX

Coach Kevin Stefanski said Garrett raised his hand in a Monday meeting to volunteer as a returner for the new kickoff. While that’s not going to happen, Garrett is open to being part of the play, likely on the coverage unit in key situations.

“I’m in the meetings, so when my name is called I’ll be out there,” he said. “Whatever we need. I’ll return it. I’ll go down there and smack something. It’s wherever they place me.”

The new rules are designed to increase returns, and many people expect a lot of long ones.

“It’s definitely going to be a game-changer more often than not,” Garrett said. “Definitely more often than in recent years. It’s going to be a lot more exciting and fans are really going to get a kick out of it.”

EXTRA POINTS

Receiver Jerry Jeudy worked on the side and watched practice after staying inside Tuesday. He has an undisclosed injury that appears to be minor.

** Left guard Joel Bitonio, running back Nick Chubb, left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., right tackle Jack Conklin, cornerback Cameron Mitchell, running back/returner Nyheim Hines and receiver/returner James Proche II remained on the side as they recover from injuries.

** Stefanski called in Jimmy Donovan to break the huddle after practice. Donovan retired Monday after nearly 40 years at WKYC-TV. He’ll remain the Browns’ radio play-by-play voice. Garrett and owner Dee Haslam were among those to hug him.

Browns writer for The Chronicle-Telegram and The Medina Gazette. Proud graduate of Northwestern University. Husband and stepdad. Avid golfer who needs to hit the range to get down to a single-digit handicap. Right about Johnny Manziel, wrong about Brandon Weeden. Contact Scott at 440-329-7253, or email and follow him on and Twitter.

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