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Ward Bringing Attitude, Versatility

Posted Jul 1, 2014

T.J. Ward is fitting right in as a Bronco, embracing his role in the defense and relishing the team's winning culture.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- T.J. Ward is a man of few words.

Perhaps that’s why he hasn’t quite received spotlight treatment on par with the Broncos’ other free agent signings like DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. Those two have been in the league longer and are obviously very talented and accomplished. But Ward is anything but a background contributor, as NFL offenses could tell you.

He embodies his “Boss” nickname in both his image and style of play. At 5-10 and 200 pounds, Ward is a condensed collection of muscle that bulges out of the rolled-up sleeves of his practice jersey. If that image isn’t daunting enough, there’s his dark visor and bold facemask.

Less than two weeks removed from the end of offseason practices, the time to intimidate opposing receivers who've been assigned a crossing route is still a long way off. For now, Ward is just embracing the offseason preparation in an environment he hasn't experienced in the NFL. After 18 total victories in four years with the Browns, he joins a team that had 15 last season alone, which he noted was a big factor in signing with Denver.

"Nothing against Cleveland but this is a winning culture," Ward said at the end of OTAs. "They’re used to winning and you treat all things the same way, period: with a preparation to win."

"That’s how the coaches treat you and that’s how the players treat each other. You expect everybody to know their job, do their job and do it the right way.”

Like Ward, there are a few members of the Broncos' secondary who are learning new jobs in Denver, including Talib and rookie corner Bradley Roby. Ward has already developed good chemistry with fellow safety Rahim Moore, saying the two "vibed off each other's movements" during OTAs in May, and is working plenty with the other new acquisitions.

"We're all fresh to the secondary," Ward said."That makes it a little better for all of us. We’re all taking our bumps and bruises together."

A man who normally hands out the bruises, Ward has been learning a variety of positions in Denver's system, as he lined up all over the field during OTA and minicamp practices. Throughout the offseason, Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio mentioned Ward's ability to play back or as a sub-package linebacker, a role he featured in for Cleveland last year. That versatility could be a major piece of Del Rio's "large library of thoughts and ideas" for the 2014 defense, and it's a role Ward embraces.

"I like to be everywhere," he said. "If it can change up my looks at different times and the offense doesn’t see me in one spot all the time, it definitely helps us help the defense and that’s what I want to do.”

Having the freedom to roam prior to the snap and hover near the line of scrimmage certainly helped Ward stuff the stat sheet last year. His 112 tackles were the third-most of any safety in the league, and he also chipped in 1.5 sacks and five passes defensed.

Even better, he found his way to the ball for impact plays on several occasions. His nine tackles for loss bettered the totals of many top defensive linemen and were only exceeded among defensive backs by the Chiefs' Eric Berry, with no others even coming close. As a cherry on top, Ward made two interceptions -- taking one back for a game-clinching touchdown against Buffalo -- and returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown against Chicago.

After capping 2013 with his first Pro Bowl appearance, Ward is ready to keep the production rolling.

"My teammates and coaches have welcomed me with open arms and the transition has been easy," he said. "I really like how things are going right now."

Not surprisingly, when asked about his goals for the season, Ward kept it short and sweet.

“We’re just expecting to win," he said. "That’s it. That’s the only expectation.”

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