Humbled Haden anxious to lead

Posted Jul 27, 2013

BEREA, Ohio -- One year removed from a league-mandated suspension, Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden is ready to lead the secondary and coach Ray Horton’s defense.

BEREA, Ohio -- Around this time a year ago, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden learned that he would miss four games at the beginning of the 2012 regular season because of a league-mandated suspension for a failed drug test.

After going through what he calls “a humbling experience and one of the lowest points” of his life, Haden aims to show that he is a leader for the Browns’ defense under the direction of coordinator Ray Horton.

“I feel like I owe the team, I owe the fans, I owe myself everything I’ve got this year, to keep going, be elite and hold things down,” Haden said following Friday’s practice.

“That’s the expectation I put on myself. (Coach Rob Chudzinski and I) meet several times, and I tell him what I want to do, tell him my goals and things like that. He tells me what my goals should be. We have an open relationship. We just sit there and talk a lot. I like Coach Chud. He believes in me. I believe in myself, and with this defense that Coach Horton’s running, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be elite.”

In 11 games last year, Haden tied for the team lead with three interceptions and registered 51 total tackles, in addition to 40 solo stops, and 10 passes defended. His 47 passes defended ranks in the top five among all NFL players since the start of the 2010 season.

But it is what he, and fourth-year safety T.J. Ward, are doing in trying to help the youngest Browns defensive backs that shows their leadership capabilities.

“Joe and T.J. have both given us words of wisdom, the young DBs, about what kind of mindset to take when you’re approaching the field,” said first-year cornerback Leon McFadden. “We appreciate it. They’ve been in the league a little bit, but at the same time, you have to respect them because they know what they’re talking about. It’s really good to be able to talk to him, pick his brain and see what he does that makes him so great, and add it into my game. In some way, it’ll help me improve my game.”

With Haden continuing to develop his skills as a defensive back and leader, Chudzinski feels he has the ability to reach his full potential as a professional football player.

“Joe’s really stepped up as a leader, stepped up as a guy, as a professional,” Chudzinski said. Joe focuses and wants to focus on improvement and being more consistent. I see that in his approach. I think he’s done a great job in that way, and I’m expecting him to keep getting better and better.

“He’s been real active out there, and looking back yesterday compared to today, I noticed he was really focusing on some of the things that the coaches had been talking to him about, working on those things and trying to improve in that way. He has potential, and that means he has ability. If he continues to develop and work on his knowledge, the details and the drive, I think he has the ability to fulfill that potential.”

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