BEREA: Browns cornerback Joe Haden is awaiting a decision from the NFL after appealing a suspension for a reported failed drug test, but he will probably play Sunday in the regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles for at least two reasons.
First, the NFL has yet to announce a suspension, and it usually does so by Tuesday during a game week. Second, Haden continued to practice Wednesday.
Still, nothing is guaranteed. In an email response to the Beacon Journal, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello explained if a player who’s appealing a suspension practices Wednesday, it doesn’t mean he would definitely be permitted to play Sunday.
“Not necessarily,” Aiello wrote. “There is no specific timetable requirement. Each case is unique.”
In a radio interview Tuesday, Browns President Mike Holmgren told 92.3 The Fan that Haden has already had an appeal hearing. However, Browns coach Pat Shurmur declined to answer whether Haden is going to be able to play in Week 1.
“Let me just make this very strong point: That is a league issue, and if I did know anything about it, I can’t talk about it,” Shurmur said. “I’ve said that all along and so at this point, I’m not gonna comment.”
The Eagles are expecting to encounter Haden, whose failed drug test was triggered by Adderall use, ESPN Cleveland reported last month.
“It looks like their corner will play,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said during a news conference. “So they should be fully loaded and ready to go.”
If Haden plays, he’ll face his favorite NFL player, Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. When Haden played quarterback at Friendly High School in Fort Washington, Md., he admired Vick and wanted to be like him.
It turns out Vick thinks highly of Haden, too.
“I think Joe is probably one of the best corners in the league, definitely top five,” Vick said during a conference call. “He’s making his way into being one of the premier players in this game. Only being so young, he has a lot of room to grow, and I think he’s gonna be a great one.”
The Browns hope they’ll be able to benefit from Haden’s potential in all 16 games. It remains to be seen whether the league will allow it.
If strongside linebacker Scott Fujita’s three-game suspension for his alleged role in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty scandal isn’t overturned in a hurry, undrafted rookie L.J. Fort is expected to start in his place.
“That’s my dream,” Fort said. “That’s what I want to do. That’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. To finally be able to be in the position to actually do it as a rookie, it’s just an incredible opportunity, and I want to definitely seize it.”
Starting middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson said he believes Fort could get the job done.
“I think he’ll be fine,” Jackson said. “He’s a calm kid. To have so much to be asked of him, he’s handled it pretty well. It’s impressive.”
Rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson, a fourth-round draft pick, would have replaced Fujita, but Johnson did not practice Wednesday as he continues to recover from an oblique injury.
“I’m feeling all right, not 100 percent,” Johnson said, adding there’s no timetable for his return. “But [I’m] just trying to go to rehab every day and stay positive.”
Fujita is fighting his suspension in federal court. He revealed on Twitter he has been staying in Northeast Ohio as he waits to find out whether he’ll be able to play, and he thanked Baldwin-Wallace University for its hospitality.
“Staying ready and hoping for good news,” Fujita tweeted.
U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan ordered the league to file by today its response to the NFL Players Association’s request earlier this week for a temporary restraining order on behalf of Fujita and other suspended players that would allow them to play in regular-season openers, the Associated Press reported.
Tight end Jordan Cameron returned to practice after being sidelined since Aug. 28 with a groin injury. He expects to play Sunday.
“I felt good today,” Cameron said. “Didn’t feel it when I was running, so good news.”
Starting free safety Eric Hagg returned to action after being sent home Monday with a stomach flu. Running back Chris Ogbonnaya practiced for the first time since he injured his left ankle Aug. 20.
Cameron, Hagg, Ogbonnaya, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis (right thumb), cornerback Dimitri Patterson (knee and ankle), strong safety Ray Ventrone (hamstring), tight end Benjamin Watson (thigh) and strong safety Usama Young (thigh) were all limited in practice.
Johnson (oblique) and offensive linemen Oniel Cousins (right ankle) and John Greco (calf) did not practice. They rode stationary bikes on the field.
The Browns are listed as the 21st most valuable NFL franchise out of 32 teams in Forbes’ new rankings. The Browns are worth $987 million, and Jimmy Haslam III agreed to buy the team for $1.05 billion, according to the magazine.
Forbes explains the sale document presented to the NFL for approval applies a 5 percent discount rate to the $1.05 billion Haslam agreed to pay Randy Lerner in the future to complete the deal, bringing the present value of the purchase to $987 million.
Fourth captain set
Each week, captains Jackson, kicker Phil Dawson and offensive tackle Joe Thomas will nominate a fourth “game captain.” Shurmur said they chose tight end Alex Smith for Week 1.
“He’s a tough guy,” Shurmur said. “So as a coach, I’m pleased with their first selection.”
Shurmur spent 10 seasons with the Eagles as one of Reid’s assistant coaches. “I’m very proud of my time in Philadelphia” Shurmur said. “I would like to think I had a small contribution building that team into a consistent winner. … Browns players who wear visors on their helmets will now have two tiny Brownie Elf logos above their face masks.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.