June 26, 2016

Partly sunny

Ward denies defense was targeting Manuel

Brian Dulik

The Gazette

BEREA — Browns safety T.J. Ward emphatically denied that the team was targeting Bills quarterback E.J. Manuel in hopes of injuring him during Cleveland’s 37-24 victory on Thursday night.

Manuel suffered a sprained right lateral collateral ligament on a low tackle from Cleveland safety Tashaun Gipson in the third quarter.

Two periods earlier, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer snagged his cleat on the grass, causing his right anterior cruciate ligament to be torn when Buffalo linebacker Kiko Alonzo hit him high.

Bills center Eric Wood told the Buffalo News that Ward “was yelling at Kiko, ‘I told you to warn him that we were going to get him.’”

Ward responded sternly Friday when asked about Wood’s claim in a conference call with Cleveland beat writers.

“That is completely inaccurate,” the fourth-year pro said. “I did speak to Kiko and he went to Oregon with me, but anytime that a player gets hurt you never praise or root it to happen.

“It’s a violent sport, but when you see players go down, no way in any shape or form is it a celebration.”

Manuel is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with his knee injury, while Hoyer is out for the remainder of the season. Both signalcallers were hurt at the end of scrambles that gained first downs.

Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said Alonso’s hit on Hoyer was borderline as he struck him on the helmet while he was in a vulnerable position.

“It was close, but I don’t think there was any intention there,” Chudzinski said. “Brian was sliding, and as he was sliding, there was the contact. That was just an unfortunate thing. I think he just got caught.”

Gipson pumped his fist and momentarily stood over Manuel after his tackle, adding to Wood’s anger.

“The hit was fine, what ticked me off was the way they acted afterwards,” he said. “I hope our defense never acts like that when they injure an opposing quarterback. You’ve got to show some class in that situation, but there’s a few guys over there that obviously didn’t.”

Injury update

Defensive end Desmond Bryant spent Thursday night at Cleveland Clinic after experiencing shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat during the game.

Though Bryant had a similar episode last season while playing for the Raiders, Chudzinski said he is fine and will play in the Browns’ next game on Oct. 13 against Detroit.

l Running back Chris Ogbonnaya suffered a concussion in the second quarter and is being treated under the NFL’s protocol for head injuries. “Oby” landed awkwardly, jarring his head, after attempting to catch a poor throw from quarterback Brandon Weeden in the flat.

 l Linebackers Jabaal Sheard (left knee sprain) and Quentin Groves (high left ankle sprain) are both making progress with their recoveries, according to Chudzinski. Sheard was hurt at Minnesota on Sept. 22, while Sheard went down on Sept. 15 at Baltimore.

“Having these extra couple days between games really helps us going forward with both guys,” the coach said.

Brownie bits

Wide receiver Josh Gordon has seven career touchdown receptions, all of them covering at least 20 yards. In three games since returning from an NFL suspension, the second-year pro has 18 receptions for 303 yards and two scores.

l Ward scored his first career touchdown on a 44-yard interception return off Bills quarterback Jeff Tuel. It was the Browns’ first pick-six since Sheldon Brown scored against Cincinnati on Oct. 14, 2012.

l Defensive end Armonty Bryant and cornerback Buster Skrine recorded their first professional sacks against Buffalo, but rookie linebacker Barkevious Mingo had his three-game sack streak end.

l Cleveland has held a halftime lead in all five games this year, marking the first time it has done so since 1969.

l Tight end Jordan Cameron’s 33 catches are the most in Browns history through five games. Tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. held the previous mark with 30 in 2006.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.