BEREA: If Browns cornerback Joe Haden takes a bad angle on the football field, an opposing player might break loose for a big play.
But as Haden learned, a bad angle off the field can be much more devastating.
Haden returned from his suspension Monday and conceded that Adderall triggered the failed drug test that led to his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He lost an appeal, and the Browns have been reeling without him.
“I appealed it because of the situation where me and my agent [Drew Rosenhaus] had an angle that we were wanting to go at it,” Haden said when asked whether he had a prescription for Adderall. “That way that I ended up taking it, we thought we’d be able to get out of it, but it didn’t work.”
The ripple effect wrecked the Browns’ secondary, as evidenced by the 10 touchdown passes it allowed in the past four weeks. Haden’s absence also might have cost the team a win.
The Browns (0-5) will still be seeking their first one of the season when they host the Cincinnati Bengals (3-2) on Sunday.
“I can’t say I would have been making these plays or I wouldn’t have been making these plays,” Haden said. “But I always think if I’m out there, I make a difference.”
The Browns now need him more than usual.
Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who replaced Haden in the starting lineup during the suspension, sprained his left ankle early in the first quarter Sunday and sat out the second half as the Browns fell 41-27 to the New York Giants (3-2). Patterson said he has been told he’ll be out “a couple weeks.”
So even though Haden is back, the secondary will be short-handed.
“[We’ve] just had a run of bad luck here and haven’t been able to get all our guys on the field at the same time,” said Patterson, who was on crutches and in a walking boot Monday. “It’s been a tough deal.”
Haden met with coach Pat Shurmur early Monday morning at the team’s headquarters and asked the coach for forgiveness.
In the afternoon, Haden addressed the media in front of his locker and issued a public apology.
“I would like to apologize to my fans, Haden Nation, the Cleveland Browns organization, front office, all the coaches,” said Haden, the seventh overall pick in the 2010 draft and the Browns’ top corner. “I hurt a lot of people. I hurt myself for sure. But I hurt a lot of people with the decision I made and I just want everybody to know I really sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart.
“It was just a mistake, just a very dumb mistake, and it wasn’t in any intent to hurt anybody or hurt the team or hurt anybody in that kind of way. It was just a young man making a decision I shouldn’t have made.”
Haden declined to comment on rumors that he took Adderall while partying in Las Vegas this past summer. Adderall is often prescribed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, but it’s also commonly abused to ward off fatigue.
“I took Adderall, and I shouldn’t have,” Haden said. “And I got suspended, and now I’m back. So that’s it basically.”
Shurmur also hopes to forge ahead.
“He’s one of our better defensive players,” Shurmur said. “We’re glad to have him back.
“We’re going to put him in the lineup. We’re getting ready to play the Bengals. Moving forward — that’s where we’re at.”
Haden was permitted to play in the Browns’ 17-16, season-opening loss to the Philadelphia Eagles because the league had yet to rule on his appeal. He tallied six tackles and an interception.
Then he was forced to watch the next four games on TV as the defense crumbled.
“When you see every snap from every angle, it’s just a whole different look, and I didn’t like that look at all,” Haden said. “I wanted to be playing.”
The Browns fell to the Bengals 34-27 in Week 2, the first game they were without Haden. He is eager to face Bengals standout receiver A.J. Green, with whom he renewed an old college rivalry last season by battling in the AFC North.
“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.”
But no matter how well Haden plays the rest of the season, he won’t be eligible for the Pro Bowl because of the suspension. It also cost him four game checks, or $1.356 million.
When asked if he thought the punishment was excessive, Haden said, “God, do I? It’s written. It’s in there. I should have been more knowing what was going on. … I just know I’m going to have Pro Bowl numbers by the end of the year.”
Haden was not allowed to visit the team’s training facility during his suspension, so he worked out at his family’s gym, Haden Sports and Performance in Maryland.
He and his girlfriend of three years also got engaged during the recent downtime.
So is Haden a changed man after his suspension?
“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’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. I have a whole lot of people like my family, Haden Nation, the Browns, everybody. [I need to commit to] just being a little bit more smart.”
Now that’s an angle the Browns would like to see.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.