The Cleveland Browns will take their intrastate rivalry with the Buffalo Bills prime time when the two teams meet on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football at FirstEnergy Stadium this week.
For the Browns, it is their only regularly-scheduled game on prime time in 2013, and the coaches and players have embraced the opportunity to showcase their talents and the city in front of a national-television audience.
“We’ll need to be at our best for this game,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “Our focus has been good. Our guys are excited about playing Thursday night, and we’ll be excited to see our fans at home for that game.”
Playing in prime-time games is a special opportunity for Haden, as it reminds him of his younger days. While growing up in Fort Washington, Md., it was a ritual for Haden and his family to watch the prime-time games together.
“That was the move,” Haden said. “During the day, I flipped the channels and would catch a little bit of every game, but that Sunday night game, that Monday night game, you watched the whole game, the intros and all, just to see what happens. It’s the only game on TV, so you know everybody’s locked in and watching.”
And knowing that the attention is squarely on the Browns when they host the Bills Thursday, Haden wants to make this a memorable night for himself and his teammates.
During his career with the Browns, Haden has intercepted nine passes and returned them for a combined 165 yards, but not one has come in a prime-time game. And with the attention of the nationally-televised game, Haden is looking to end that streak, as well as his touchdown drought.
Since switching to cornerback during his first week at the University of Florida, Haden has never returned an interception for a touchdown, although he did get close in college before a future Browns teammate stopped him short of the goal line.
“I’ve been a corner now seven years, and I still haven’t had a pick-six,” Haden said. “At Florida, I got down to the one-yard line and got tackled by Mohamed Massaquoi. He tackled me at the one in the Florida-Georgia (game). I’ve had plenty of picks, but no sixes. Return yards and all, just never got in the end zone.”
‘A SPECIAL NIGHT’
In addition to playing in front of a national-television audience, Thursday will be a special night for the Browns organization, as the officially welcome Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown into the Ring of Honor.
“We’re honoring Jim Brown, the greatest player of all time, and certainly, the greatest Cleveland Brown of all time,” Chudzinski said. “When you grow up as a Browns fan, that’s the first thing you’re taught. We’re excited about that. He’s been great, in terms of having him back in the organization. He’s been very supportive.
“Personally, I’ve enjoyed the interactions that I’ve had with Jim, him sharing his wisdom, and some of his perspective has really helped me, and I know it’s helped the guys on the team, him being around and being someone they can talk to as well. You can’t say enough things about the good that he’s done in the community and around the country for young people as well.”
MAKING AN IMPACT
After rushing for nine yards on eight carries in his Browns debut against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago, running back
In addition to his running prowess, McGahee brings a veteran presence to the Browns’ backfield.
“He’s a guy that’s done it before,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a tough guy, mentally tough, very competitive, and he always has been. That’s Willis. I think he brought some of that and brings some of that to our team and to our offense.”
Prior to Tuesday’s practice, Chudzinski gave updates on outside linebacker
“He’s improved quite a bit,” Chudzinski said of Sheard. “We’ll hold him for practice today, but we’ll wait and see what his status is for the game.”
He added that Cundiff will kick Tuesday after going one of three on field-goal attempts in the win over Cincinnati.
“We’ll have a better understanding of what he’ll be able to do,” Chudzinski said. “He came back and made the 51-yarder, and I’ve got all the faith in the world with Billy. Just watching him in practice, and seeing him kick, I have that kind of faith in him. Even though we didn’t have the results on the first two, I have faith in him and felt like he was going to make it.”