The Cleveland Browns had Joe Haden for one game. They’ll be without their best cornerback for the next four.
Haden was suspended Monday without pay for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances. Haden’s suspension begins immediately, and he will not be eligible to return to the Browns’ active roster until Monday, Oct. 8, one day after they play at the New York Giants.
Haden, who reportedly tested positive in the offseason for the stimulant Adderall, played in Sunday’s season opener against Philadelphia. He had an interception and six tackles in Cleveland’s 17-16 loss. Haden has not commented on his ordeal since the report first surfaced on espncleveland.com during training camp.
Haden recently had his appeal heard on the suspension, which has been hanging over the Browns for weeks. The league does not announce suspensions until after the appeal process is complete to protect the player’s privacy.
The league did not provide any details about Haden’s violation.
Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said the team will not make a comment about Haden’s suspension, which will cost the former first-round draft pick $1.356 million in salary. Coach Pat Shurmur was unaware of Haden’s suspension when he held his weekly news conference.
Haden will not be allowed at the team’s headquarters during his suspension. Last week, the Browns practiced without linebacker Scott Fujita, who had his three-game suspension for his role in the Saints’ bounty scandal temporarily lifted by a three-member appeals panel. Fujita did not dress for Sunday’s game.
Haden, who did not have an interception last season after getting six picks as a rookie, seemed to know his suspension was imminent following Sunday’s game, when he had one of the Browns’ four interceptions of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick.
”It felt good,” Haden said afterward. ”There’s nothing like playing football. That’s what I’ve been training for my whole life. Being out there with my teammates, you just feel comfortable. You feel at home and at peace. I was just happy to be out there playing with them.”
Haden’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, attended the game.
It was vital for the Browns to have Haden, their top coverage cornerback, in the opener against the dangerous Vick. He’ll be missed the next four weeks as well as Cleveland will play Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore and the Giants.
Complicating matters is that the Browns may also be without cornerback Sheldon Brown, who left Sunday’s game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. Brown has started 161 consecutive games, and Browns coach Pat Shurmur said Monday he thought the 33-year-old would be available this week.
With Haden out, Dimitri Patterson will start and second-year defensive back Buster Skrine will either move to Patterson’s position at nickel back or start if Brown can’t play. The Browns also have rookie Trevin Wade, who was inactive on Sunday.