The pain Joe Haden felt in his broken finger Sunday wasn't anywhere close to the kind he felt as he watched his teammates from the sidelines of San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium.
"It is the worst," Haden said. "It is the worst feeling ever."
Haden's decision didn't come lightly.
All throughout the week, Haden expressed confidence in his ability to fight through the pain because he's done it before. Just last year, with the Browns officially out of playoff contention, Haden pushed through the flu and a lingering shoulder injury to play in the regular season finale at Baltimore.
Haden knows his limits, though, and he realized during a pre-game workout Sunday he wasn't going to be able to help his teammates. The pain he experienced in his finger wasn't any better than it was at practice, where he was limited. A cast didn't help.
Haden talked to a number of his defensive teammates one-on-one, including veterans Donte Whitner, Karlos Dansby and Tramon Williams, shortly after the decision was made.
"I felt like I was playing with one hand," Haden said. "So when it came down to that, I felt like I would be letting the team down if I was out there bracing myself and only playing with my left hand. It came down to that decision and that is why I ended up not playing.
"If I am hurt, I am hurt. If I can't go, I can't go. Hurt is different than injury. I play hurt all the time. If I am injured and I feel like I am going to hurt the team I am not going to go out there."
Haden continued Wednesday from the locker room, his passion increasing with each answer.
"That is why I kept it until the last minute. I wanted to go. I want to play. Me not being out there I understand – I am a guy that we need for this defense," Haden said. "I am out there and we are in zero and we are rolling coverages away. It is really not a one-for-one swap … Where I was coming from was I want to be out there. I want to help my guys. At the end of the day when I am going to hurt them not being able to use both hands and only being able to play with my left hand, it is not going to be good."
Haden's decision wasn't questioned by his teammates in the locker room or coach Mike Pettine, who said any criticism of the decision was "unwarranted" and apologized to Haden for any role he played in eliciting it from those outside the facility.
"Nobody questions his toughness, his leadership and how important the Browns are to him and what being a Cleveland Brown means to him and vice versa," Pettine said.
Haden, who is also battling a rib injury, was limited at Wednesday's practice. He holds the same optimism he carried throughout last week's practices about his status for Sunday's game at Baltimore.
If Haden is back, he'll team with nickel back K'Waun Williams, who is set to return from a concussion, to give the secondary an injection of depth after playing without three starters during most of last week's second half.
"I just want to be out there for the squad," Haden said.