BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Joe Haden is ready to rejoin the Cleveland Browns’ secondary.
The veteran cornerback said Friday he is “90 percent” recovered from a strained abdominal muscle and will play against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
“It’s good enough,” Haden said. “I can do everything.”
Even if he can’t, his presence is welcome. Cleveland is 0-5 this year when Haden has been out. He missed last week’s overtime loss in Dallas and replacement Buster Skrine committed three key penalties in his place. The depleted secondary made seven of Cleveland’s 12 total penalties, including two each by veterans Sheldon Brown and T.J. Ward.
Skrine sustained a concussion in Dallas and was held out of practice earlier this week, yet intends to play.
“I feel good and passed all my tests,” Skrine said. “I got hit and was out for a second or two. It happened and I’ve moved on.”
Haden nearly faced the Cowboys and said the week off should have him stronger against the Steelers.
“I was real close,” he said. “I went out early and was running around. The first time I really went for a ball, I wasn’t quite ready. Coach was like ‘Look, Joe, you know we need you to cover Dez (Bryant) and if you can’t do that, then just shut it down. I was like ‘Yeah, that’s probably best.'”
This week, speedy Mike Wallace will present an outside challenge and the Browns will be wary if newly-signed Plaxico Burress is active.
“They have a lot of guys who can make plays,” Skrine said.
That holds true on defense, where All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu practiced Friday for the first time in seven weeks but remains doubtful due to a strained right calf.
“That defense has been together so long, their coordinator (Dick LeBeau) has been there forever that they just keep going,” Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi said.
The Browns have little sympathy for the banged-up Steelers, who will start third-string quarterback Charlie Batch with starter Ben Roethlisberger and backup Byron Leftwich sidelined.
“This is going to be a battle,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “I’ve seen it before, I know it’s the case: Veteran quarterbacks that have been in the league a long time find a way to come in and be very efficient.”
Shurmur expects the Steelers to run shorter routes and not necessarily because the Browns put so much pressure on Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. Cleveland had seven sacks and forced Romo to hurry several other throws.
“Generally speaking, they have a quick passing game,” Shurmur said. “They like to run the football. I think we’ll see that. I’m sure Charlie’s going to understand the timing of the routes that they’re running for him. You’re seeing more quick timed throws, where the ball gets out quicker.”
Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said Batch, at age 37, has been around long enough to know better than to force passes. He expects him to execute the Steelers’ offense with efficiency.
“I think they are going to run the ball a ton,” Jackson said. “Our linebackers and defensive line have to control this game.”
Having Haden back will help, according to Jackson. Strong coverage of Pittsburgh’s passing attack should let Cleveland’s upfront players concentrate on stopping the Steelers’ run game.
“To get Joe back is huge,” Jackson said. “You know he will challenge his tail off. He helps us do a little more defensively.”
Haden is eager to make a play or two.
“We know it’s Pittsburgh and we know what this game means to the city and what it would mean to win,” he said. “The season hasn’t gone the way we wanted, but a win would make it better.”
NOTES: Only DBs Dmitri Patterson and Ray Ventrone did not practice and are out. Patterson has missed five games with an ankle injury and Ventrone has a calf problem. “I think we’re getting about as healthy as we can be, especially at this point in the season,” Shumur said. … Jackson is not fond of a team promotion in which Cleveland fans will be given inflatable white flags with the Browns’ logo to wave in an effort to counteract Pittsburgh fans waving their venerable gold and black “Terrible Towels”. “I’m not a fan of white flags,” Jackson said. “It’s just not a message I like.”
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