Reporting Daryl Ruiter
BEREA (92.3 The Fan) - Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden was humble and contrite as he stood in front of his locker Monday.
Haden returned to the Browns following his 4-game suspension for failing a drug test, which Haden confirmed was for the unapproved use of Adderall.
“It was just a mistake, just a very dumb mistake,” Haden said. “It wasn’t any attempt to hurt anybody, hurt the team in any kind of way. It was just a young man making a decision I shouldn’t have made.”
Speaking for the first time since being suspended on Sept. 10, Haden opened his remarks with an apology.
“I’d like to apologize to my fans, Haden Nation, the Cleveland Browns organization, the front office, all of the coaches,” Haden said. “I hurt a lot of people, myself for sure, but I hurt a lot of people with the decision I made and want everybody to know that I really, sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart. This is no script, nobody told me what to say. I just really felt that I want everybody to know that it is a mistake, everybody makes mistakes but my mistake happened to hurt a lot more people.”
While suspended, Haden was not permitted to be in the building or with the team. His first order of business was to visit with head coach Pat Shurmur to apologize.
“He came in early,” Shurmur said. “I don’t know if it was the first stop, but it was early this morning, he came in and we visited. We just talked about what we’re going to do as we progress. Beyond that, I’ll keep it private.
“Joe and I had a good talk. Period.”
Apparently Shurmur didn’t want an ‘I’m sorry,’ just his star corner back on the field.
“Me and Coach [Shurmur], we have a special relationship,” Haden said. “We get along really well and I went up there, I definitely apologized to him, and one thing he was really about was, ‘Alright Joe, we can’t be upset about this. We have to move forward.’
“I’m trying to apologize and he’s trying to give me the gameplan. He just wants to get it going.”
The loss of Haden for 4 weeks was devastating to the secondary which gave up 10 touchdowns through the air during his absence. In Sunday’s loss to the Giants – 3 different defenders were embarrassed by Giants receiver Victor Cruz for touchdowns.
“I think if I’d been out there, of course, sometimes I’m looking at the game and think, ‘If I was there, what would have happened. Would it have been different?,’” Haden said. “But at the same time, the players that were in there playing were all NFL caliber players, I mean, Buster [Skrine] is out there fighting, fighting, and doing everything he can. D-Pat [Dimitri Patterson] is a vet, Sheldon [Brown] is a vet, so I can’t say I would have been making these plays.
“I always think if I’m out there, I make a difference.”
In week one’s 17-16 loss to the Eagles, Haden had an interception, recorded 6 tackles and broke up a pass.
Getting Haden back now is critical for a secondary which took another hit on Sunday. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson sustained a left ankle injury and will be lost for “a few weeks” Patterson said Monday.
Haden also is back in time to face Bengals receiver A.J. Green this week.
“Perfect timing,” Haden said. “At least when I come back, I can try to make a statement going against somebody in the division like him. I feel like once I come back and just do my thing this game, and then I’ll just be back.”
Haden went back home just outside Washington D.C. to work out with his dad to stay in shape. He doesn’t expect rust to be an issue come Sunday against the Bengals.
“I hope not,” Haden said. “It shouldn’t be. I’ve been working out on the field also, so I’m gonna start working early, doing footwork drills, hang out with the coach today so I should be good.”
He had plenty of time to reflect on his mistake and he also got engaged to his girlfriend of nearly 3 years. Other than that, Haden promises to be the same upbeat, positive person that fans have come to love.
“The only difference is that I’m going to be engaged,” Haden said. “You’re going to see the same Joe, just having a good time, but I think I’ve grown from it because you never really know what little things could impact so many people and I’ve got to make sure I know that I’m not the only one in my circle.”
Haden’s suspension cost the Browns on the field but it also cost him deeply off of it. He was scheduled to make $5.765 million this season but was docked nearly $1.356 million in lost game checks.
He was asked, did the penalty fit the crime or was it too excessive? Needless to say Haden thought sitting 4 games and losing a quarter of his season salary was a bit much for a failed test.
“God, do I,” Haden said. “It’s written, and it’s in there and I should have been more knowledgeable of what’s going on. But I’ve definitely served my four game suspension, everything is up, and I honestly just want to move forward and come out here and play.”