Updated following the 20-minute portion of practice open to media
The Browns know losing starting cornerback Joe Haden for the next four games is a major blow to their defense, but they must focus on moving on without him.
Haden’s suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances took effect Monday. He played Sunday in the Browns’ season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles while awaiting the league’s decision on his appeal.
“We’re gonna miss Joe for a month, and the next guys in there will do a good job,” Shurmur said today before practice. “I’m very confident that the players we have on this team will go in and challenge and play extremely well. That’s just the way it goes, and we’re all aware of the rules. So we move forward.”
Starting cornerback Sheldon Brown, who injured his left shoulder Sunday while making a tackle in the first quarter, practiced today. Dimitri Patterson will start in place of Haden opposite Brown. In nickel packages, Patterson will move to the slot, and Buster Skrine will play on the outside.
“If you do the math, that makes sense,” Shurmur said.
The Browns will face the challenge of covering Cincinnati Bengals standout wide receiver A.J. Green without Haden’s help.
“That’s a big loss for Cleveland, but they’ve got a lot of veteran guys that play a lot of football," Green said today during a conference call. "Joe’s a big part of the defense, but it’s the NFL. Whenever is given an opportunity, they always can step up.”
Green, a rookie last season, caught the Browns’ attention before the 2011 NFL Draft.
“We liked him a lot,” Shurmur said. “We felt like he was gonna be a top-flight receiver in this league. There’s no question. When you see a guy have success in his rookie season and you liked him in the draft, it comes to no surprise to me.
“I think he’s got size. I think he does a good job against bump and run. I think he catches the ball extremely well, and I think he’s a very competitive guy. There’s times when the ball gets thrown to him when it’s less than ideal situations for the offense, and he finds a way to go up and get it.”
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis praised Haden during a conference call this morning.
“I think Joe’s one of the best young corners in the National Football League,” Lewis said. “I think I’ve been very impressed with him since he’s come out of Florida in everything he’s done. One of the things that I felt like he has been is he’s been more physical. I thought he’s been a very good player. He competes well. he plays the ball the air exceptionally, and that’s what you want to be as a cornerback, and he really has those great skills.”
When asked whether Haden expressed remorse about his violation, Shurmur said he would keep his conversations with Haden private. He said his players are aware of the league’s rules.
“We constantly inform our players about the rules in all situations,” Shurmur said. “This is something that happened. Anytime something happens, it brings light to it. You just reinforce it. But there’s a constant process that I take our team through as we inform them about any NFL rule.”
Shurmur said he expects rookie running back Trent Richardson to practice better this week. He said Richardson has not had swelling in his surgically repaired left knee since playing in the opener Sunday. Lewis said he was “disappointed” the Browns drafted Richardson and wished he played in another division. … As expected, strongside linebacker Scott Fujita returned to practice today and wore a brace on his left knee. Shurmur, though, would not commit to starting Fujita against the Bengals. … Defensive end Frostee Rucker will serve as the Browns’ game captain in Week, Shurmur said. Rucker used to play for the Bengals. ... Browns backup offensive tackle Oniel Cousins (ankle) also returned to practice. ... Safety Ray Ventrone and rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson (oblique/ribs) missed practice. Ventrone has been dealing with an injured hamstring.