Swiftly and simply, the Browns fortunes the next four weeks have been altered.
The NFL announced in a statement late Monday afternoon that cornerback Joe Haden has been suspended for four games “for violating the NFL Policy on performance enhancing substances.”
Haden’s ongoing saga had lasted for a month, as ESPN-Cleveland’s Will Burge reported in early August that Haden had tested positive for Adderall (a banned stimulant) and was facing a four-game suspension.
Coach Pat Shurmur was bombarded all week leading up to the opener with questions about Haden, and repeatedly said he had no information and could not comment if he did.
The league wasted no time making it official this week, though it did not specify the drug.
Haden has consistently declined comment, calling the issue a league matter.
Haden will miss the Browns games against Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore and the Giants. He can’t practice with the team, and is ineligible for the Pro Bowl and other postseason awards.
The suspension will cost him $1.356 million.
Adderall is usually prescribed for attention deficit disorder, but recreational uses include use as a pick-me-up at parties. College newspapers describe its abilities to keep someone energized for a lengthy period of time.
For the Browns, the suspension comes a day after a last-minute loss to the Eagles and with cornerback Sheldon Brown recovering from a stinger that sidelined him midway through the second quarter of Sunday’s opener.
Which means the Browns could face the Bengals without their top two corners.
On the field, Haden was playing better than at any time since he was drafted in the first round in 2010. He had an excellent game Sunday against the Eagles, shutting down DeSean Jackson and intercepting a pass.
No doubt he would have been assigned to Green in Cincinnati, and to Stevie Johnson of the Bills and Torrey Smith of the Ravens.
With Haden out, Dimitri Patterson steps into the starting spot. If Brown is out as well, Buster Skrine will start. If Brown plays, Skrine would be the nickel back.
There’s no minimizing the impact the suspension will have on the defense. Rather than assign Haden to the opposing team’s best receiver, the Browns now may have to play more zone — and perhaps cut back on the aggressive blitzes used against the Eagles.
With the suspension, Haden let down the team, his teammates and the fans.