SportsBrowns

Actions

Former star safety T.J. Ward announces retirement from NFL

Rob Gronkowski, Leon McFadden, T.J. Ward
Posted at 7:07 PM, Apr 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-21 19:07:49-04

T.J. Ward, the walk-on at Oregon who became a key part of Denver's famed “No Fly Zone” secondary that helped the Broncos win Super Bowl 50, officially announced his retirement on Wednesday.

Ward played eight seasons in the NFL, earning All-Rookie team honors, two trips to the Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro honors. He last played for the Buccaneers in 2017, although he spent a month with the Cardinals last season.

“This period came fast, and yet it felt prolonged,” Ward wrote in an open letter announcing his retirement. “We each have our own journey in this life and in this sport, and I proudly followed mine until my football path was complete.”

A second-round pick by the Browns in 2010, Ward played eight seasons in the NFL, including three in Denver, where he teamed with Chris Harris Jr., Aqib Talib, Darius Stewart and Bradley Roby to form one of the best defensive backfields in the game.

The “No Fly Zone” was the backbone of Denver's dominant defense that led the Broncos to a 24-10 win over Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50, which was Hall of Famer Peyton Manning's farewell game.

“For sure, it's the hallmark moment,” Ward told The Associated Press. “That team, that year was very special, and to finish against the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense — and being underdogs pretty much that whole season — and the group of guys and the relationships we built, the camaraderie will last a lifetime. So, I'm definitely fortunate to play with the group of guys I played with on that team.”

Ward said playing in today's era of offensive fireworks made his time in Denver even more special.

“For those years, we were on top of the league, No. 1 in most categories,” Ward said. “We did everything you could do as a defense.

“It wasn't like back in the day. Nothing against those other great defenses, but they're lining up in ‘12 personnel’ (two tight ends, two running backs) all day, every day,” Ward said. “Those were smash-mouth days, so I wouldn't say they were easier, but just a different type of football you had to stop.”

Ward said Denver's defense led by the “No-Fly Zone” could have played in any era.

"You could put us in the AFL, the no merger era. You could put us in the ‘60s, ’70s or '80s and I felt we were smash-mouth enough to go head up with those Bears defenses, the Purple People Eaters, the Steel Curtain.

“Could our secondary play man and zone? Could our D-line rush and stop the run? Could our linebackers play the run and the pass. And you look up and say yes. Well, that's a special defense."

Ward said he feels he could still play at age 34 but has a lot of other things in his life to attend to other than football.

“Raising my son. He's 8 months old. That's first and foremost on top of the list,” Ward said. “I have some business interests, my real estate firm, I've got a management company that you guys will hear about soon. I was writing a book for a while. I have different things like my fashion, my Ward Corp line. So, a bunch of different things.”

Ward said last year in Arizona he felt like he was still in his prime. “So, physically, mentally, I know I could play," he said, "but it's just not time for me anymore.”

In his letter, Ward thanked members of his family, Oregon for giving him a chance, Cleveland for drafting him, Denver for “three amazing years," and Tampa Bay and Arizona for giving him another shot. He thanked his fans and ended with this: “Finally, thank you football.”

Download our streaming app on your favorite device.  Click here for more.

Download our streaming app on your favorite device. Click here for more.

BROWNS 2021 SCHEDULE

Preseason

WEEK 1 · W · Sat 8/14 · 7:00 PM at Jacksonville Jaguars (23-13)
WEEK 2 · W · Sun 8/22 · 1:00 PM vs. New York Giants (17-13)
WEEK 3 · W · Sun 8/29 · 8:00 PM at Atlanta Falcons (19-10)

Regular Season

WEEK 1 · L ·Sun 9/12 · 4:25 PM EST at Kansas City Chiefs (29-33)

WEEK 2 · W · Thu 9/19 · 1:00 PM EST Houston Texans (31-21)

WEEK 3 · Sun 9/26 · 1:00 PM EST Chicago Bears (FOX)

WEEK 4 · Sun 10/3 · 1:00 PM EST at Minnesota Vikings (CBS)

WEEK 5 · Sun 10/10 · 4:05 PM EST at Los Angeles Chargers (CBS)

WEEK 6 · Sun 10/17 · 4:05 PM EST Arizona Cardinals (FOX)

WEEK 7 · Thu 10/21 · 8:20 PM EST Denver Broncos (FOX/NFLN/AMZ)

WEEK 8 · Sun 10/31 · 1:00 PM EST Pittsburgh Steelers (CBS)

WEEK 9 · Sun 11/7 · 1:00 PM EST at Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)

WEEK 10 · Sun 11/14 · 1:00 PM EST at New England Patriots (CBS)

WEEK 11 · Sun 11/21 · 1:00 PM EST Detroit Lions (FOX)

WEEK 12 · Sun 11/28 · 8:20 PM EST at Baltimore Ravens (NBC)

WEEK 13 · BYE

WEEK 14 · Mon 12/12 · 1:00 PM EST Baltimore Ravens (CBS)

WEEK 15 · Dec. 18/19 · TBD Las Vegas Raiders (TBD)

WEEK 16 · Sat 12/25 · 4:30 PM at Green Bay Packers (FOX/NFLN/AMZ)

WEEK 17 · Mon 1/3 · 8:15 PM EST at Pittsburgh Steelers (ESPN)

WEEK 18 · Sun 1/9 · 1:00 PM EST Cincinnati Bengals (CBS)