TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — T.J. Ward is excited about starting anew with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The three-time Pro Bowl safety not only feels he’s joined a franchise on the rise after being released by the Denver Broncos, but is confident he can still play at a high level and provide veteran leadership.
“I’m going to do everything possible to help this team win,” said Ward, who also drew interest from other clubs being signing a one-year, $5 million deal with the Bucs.
“My goal,” the eighth-year pro added, “is to be the best football player I can be this year, hopefully bring some All Pro-type play to the team, and help us get to a championship.”
The 30-year-old played the past three seasons in Denver after spending the first four of his career with the Cleveland Browns.
The Broncos won the Super Bowl two years ago, with Ward contributing to the success of a dominant defense that ranked among the NFL’s best in every meaningful statistical category.
Denver’s decision to release him last week did not sit well with Ward or some of his former teammates, who felt the Broncos could have handled the situation better.
“I mean, you could have let me know what was going on. You had a full off season,” Ward said. “I know it’s a business, but when you have good employees, you’re supposed to treat your employees a certain way. I think they just handled it completely unprofessional. That’s just my opinion.”
In signing with the Bucs, Ward feels he’s landed on his feet. He said he’s focused on making the most of a new opportunity.
“Tampa had the best locker room, with the players they have. It just seemed to me like they had a good mix of vets and young players and guys hungry to win,” Ward said, adding that he’s also impressed with the development of young quarterback Jameis Winston, the first overall pick from the 2015 draft.
“They just had the most to offer, the organization, what they’ve done in the past,” the safety added, “and what they continue to do.”
The Bucs are just as excited to have Ward, who started all 95 regular season games he’s appeared in and has eight career interceptions, along with 8 1/2 sacks and 10 forced fumbles.
“He’s a good football player. And as we’ve said many times, I haven’t been on that team yet that has too many good football players,” coach Dirk Koetter said, adding it’s too early to speculate on how fast Ward will pick up Tampa Bay’s defense and, presumably, move into the starting lineup.
“When he’s ready, it all works itself out. … It doesn’t matter how you do it, eventually the cream always rises to the top,” Koetter adding, noting that being a veteran who’s switched teams before figures to help.
“We did our homework on him. He’s a very sharp guy, gets football,” Koetter said. “This guy is like a coach on the field is what the people who have had him before (say). But every single player’s different.”
By FRED GOODALL, AP Sports Writer
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