BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns coach Mike Pettine accepted blame for the heavy criticism directed at Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden for not playing with a broken finger.
Haden chose not to play in Sunday’s loss at San Diego because of a broken finger on his right hand, an injury he sustained a week earlier against Oakland.
Following the game, and again on Monday, Pettine said it was solely Haden’s decision not to play, saying "Joe made the decision that he didn’t want to go."
Those comments prompted Haden being ripped by some fans and media members for choosing not to play.
On Wednesday, Pettine called any condemnation of Haden "unwarranted" and said he should have done a better job explaining the player’s decision not to dress against the Chargers. Pettine said he met with Haden after learning of the "flak" he’s taken.
"I will bear some of that blame just in detailing the procedure and how it went," Pettine said. "But Joe made the decision based on he didn’t feel he could be 100 percent and he felt it would hurt the team if he played. So it’s something that I’ve talked about it with him and I’m comfortable with where we are with it."
Haden, who also hurt his ribs against the Raiders on Sept. 27, tested his finger during pregame warmups before choosing not to play. Without Haden, Chargers quarterback Phillips Rivers passed for 358 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-27 win.
Pettine called Haden "one of the faces of our franchise" and that it’s unfortunate he has been subjected to any ridicule.
"Nobody questions his toughness, his leadership, how important the Browns are to him, what football, what being a Cleveland Brown means to him and vice versa," Pettine said. "So I think it’s unwarranted, and I misspoke. Joe wanted to be out there. He wanted to play. But just in his assessment, did not want to put the team at risk knowing that he could not be at the percentage that in his heart he knew couldn’t get to."
The Browns were required to provide a written explanation to the NFL, which is investigating why Haden didn’t play after being listed as "probable" on the injury report.
Pettine downplayed the issue.
"I don’t know how often this happens, but we don’t see this as a big deal," he said. "I doubt the league will as well."
A league spokesman said the matter is still under review.