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Browns DB Joe Haden finds 'newfound love' for football through recent adversity

One look at Joe Haden on Wednesday showed how clear it was the Browns defensive back wants nothing more than to be back on the practice field in full capacity.

It's a few months away, as Haden recently swapped the scooter he'd been using to move from Point A to Point B for a walking boot, but the more he sees his teammates unify under new coach Hue Jackson, the more his desire to get back to his Pro Bowl form grows.

"I never went through any type of adversity like this playing football. It's always been pretty good," Haden said. "Being able to go through something like this, it definitely brings a newfound respect, newfound love, passion and I'm missing it, not being able to be out there with my guys. Sometimes I feel like I'm in the way a little bit. I just don't really like that feeling at all knowing I'm a leader on this team and a person that's going to be making a big impact in terms of wins and losses. But I'm just excited to keep pushing."

Haden thought he was in the clear from a 2015 season to forget as he began his personal offseason workouts. Fully recovered from the multiple concussions he dealt with during a year in which he played in just five games, Haden re-aggravated an ankle injury he suffered in his final game and required surgery.

There's no specific timetable for Haden's return, but Jackson shares the same kind of optimism Haden displayed Wednesday.

"The guy really wants to be out there," Jackson said. "He works extremely hard, and I think that's where he wants to be. I think he'll be out there sooner rather than later."

Since the beginning of offseason workouts, Haden has been a regular presence inside the Browns facility in Berea. His rehab stretches over five days per week, and the progress has been tangible. Haden's goal is to be back in time for training camp, and he's confident he'll be ready for the Sept. 11 season opener at Philadelphia.

"I'm dealing with it really well. I've got a really positive attitude," Haden said. "The new coaching staff, coach Hue Jackson – him being here, having faith in me, trusting me and definitely just believing in me knowing the type of player I am, not really feeling like I have to come out and prove to him what I can really do. Just him having that confidence gives me a lot of confidence in myself and doesn't make me feel like, 'This is a whole new staff. You've got to prove yourself Round 1.'"

As it stands now, Haden is one of three starters from last year's secondary not on the practice field for Browns OTAs. The other two, safeties Donte Whitner and Tashaun Gipson, are no longer with the team, but that hasn't affected Haden's optimism.

Haden singled out players such as second-year safety Ibraheim Campbell and nickel cornerback K'Waun Williams as reasons why he believes the Browns secondary is a "sleeper" heading into 2016.

"I think we're going to be able to surprise a lot of people, No. 1, because we've got a lot to prove," Haden said. "It's just all grind. We feel like a lot of people are counting us out. That chip is what's going to make us a whole lot better this season."

The Browns took to the practice fields for Day 2 of OTAs - just the second day the rookies and veterans work on field together. (All photos by John Reid)

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