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Joe Haden played admirably vs. Ravens with the flu


BALTIMORE -- He had a fever, the chills and his body ached. He received an IV to put extra fluids in his body before the game.

Nothing was going to stop Joe Haden from playing in the Browns' 2014 season finale against the Baltimore Ravens.

Not even the flu.

If anything defines Playing Like a Brown, it was Haden's gutsy Week 17 effort against the Ravens. Even in what some viewed as a meaningless game for Cleveland, Haden made it his priority to show younger teammates the right way to approach your business.

"I'm trying to be out there and lead by example," Haden said with a raspy voice in the locker room after the Browns' 20-10 loss. "You've got to show these dudes that you've got to want it. And you've got to want to win with all you got. I feel like if I'm out there doing what I've got to do when I'm under the weather, it's just going to make other people on the team see that and hopefully do the same."

Coach Mike Pettine said the team gave Haden the "Michael Jordan scoring 30-plus points right after he had the flu speech" before the game.

"We wanted to make sure we could get him out there," Pettine said. "That's the kind of guy that he is. I think there were a lot of guys given the injury that he had, could have just said, 'No, I missed last game, I'll go ahead and miss this one, too, and head into the offseason and get healthy.' He went out there under the weather, clearly. I know he banged his shoulder on the one play in the end zone. But he's a warrior."

Haden was on the other end of a 53-yard connection between Joe Flacco and Torrey Smith, a play that led to an eventual touchdown for Baltimore. But Flacco threw a gorgeous deep ball and Smith made an even better in-air adjustment to come down with the football.

That play may have swung the game, but it won't define Haden's performance Sunday. The cornerback broke up two other deep passes and, despite his illness, tackled with physicality -- a quality of his game in which defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said Haden has shown tremendous growth.

Now a polished veteran finishing his fifth NFL season, the 25-year-old Haden knows the importance of his position on the team as a leader. While his voice quivered mostly from being sick,there was emotion in Haden's message about how much football is truly a team sport.

"Everybody has to be all in," Haden said. "Everybody has to be in it together. Everybody has to fight for this one goal. It's very hard to win in the NFL. Every game matters. Every game counts. It means you have to be all in. Everyone has to be accountable. Everybody has to do their part and be on the straight and narrow, you know head down and trying to win.

"This year we did better. This is the most games I won, but just that little taste is not enough. We have a very good, good defense. Our offense is coming along, but everybody just has to be all the way bought in."

We won't see other Browns players until OTAs begin in April, but we will see Haden later in January at the Pro Bowl. It's Haden's second consecutive year being honored as one of professional football's premiere players, and it'll likely be a recurring trip throughout the rest of his career.

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