BEREA, Ohio — Joe Haden has had an eventful training camp and preseason for the Browns.
But amidst talk of suspension and being kicked out of practice, Haden has performed. He’s looked much more like the Joe Haden of the first half of 2011 than the one who faded in the second.
“I see him pretty intimately day to day,” coach Pat Shurmur said Monday, “and I see a difference in his training camp this year compared to the one last year.”
Article continues below ...
Which brings up both the curse and the blessing of Haden this camp.
Haden looks fast and aggressive. He intercepted the second pass Nick Foles threw in Friday’s loss to the Eagles, and was active after.
He is far and away the Browns’ best cover corner, and his presence allows the defense to do certain things. With him in on the field in the opener, the Browns could assign him to cover DeSean Jackson and breathe easy that Haden would hold his own. Jackson gives a lot of guys fits, but Haden can as well. He is the Browns’ best — and perhaps — only cornerback with man-coverage abilities.
Thing is, Haden very well could not be on the field in the opener.
Word broke early in camp that Haden failed an offseason drug test and was facing a four-game suspension. Nothing has been announced, but the Browns seem to be planning as if Haden will miss those games.
Haden has commented on the report by saying only, “it’s a league issue.”
Buster Skrine replaced Haden in the second quarter Friday against the Eagles, playing with the rest of the starters. That move usually isn’t made in the third preseason game unless there’s extenuating circumstances. Though there is nothing official about Haden, all indications are that a suspension is coming.
Which clearly affects the Browns for the opener. If Haden is out against the Eagles, Dimitri Patterson, Skrine or Trevin Wade would step in. That opens up the field for Michael Vick, Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.
Haden would logically seem like a guy who would rest in the preseason finale, but if he doesn’t play it gives the guy who would take his place following a suspension more work.
The Browns won’t discuss this, of course, because they can’t. Nothing is official, and no team will speculate on a possible suspension.
Haden’s situation somewhat illustrates the way things have gone for the Browns the past few years.
Haden is entering his third season. He was the Browns’ first-round pick (seventh overall) in 2010 and as a rookie showed a knack for defending passes, breaking up 18. Last season he started 15 games, and had 19 breakups, which ranked fourth in the AFC. His 37 pass breakups in two seasons are tied for third in the NFL.
This training camp it seems like he’s better.
“I think he’s challenged in practice,” Shurmur said. “I think his attention to detail, his focus has been good in practice.”
Haden has become an off-field celebrity of sorts in celebrity-starved Cleveland. He’s featured on TV at Cavs games, feted for his support of other Cleveland teams and treated with a reverence that seems a bit in excess of a guy who has never been to a Pro Bowl who has started 22 games.
Haden also has enjoyed his celebrity.
He’s tweeted pictures of his cars, his Rolex and his shoes. He also tweeted photos of the cakes given to him at the birthday party he threw for himself.
Whether that contributed to Haden failing a test for Adderall is up to speculation.
But the bottom line is that if he is suspended — as most seem to expect — Haden will be missing at a time when his team needs him most.