In the very near future, Joe Haden will undergo surgery to repair a pair of groin injuries that nagged at him throughout the season. These were surely frustrating setbacks for the Browns cornerback, who missed most of the previous year because of concussions and spent most this past offseason recovering from a surprise ankle surgery.
But as Haden reflected on the end of a trying season, he was upbeat with an eye toward the future.
"I'm just ready to attack my rehab," he said. "I'm ready to come back next season fully, 100 percent healthy because I'm getting my surgery early enough this year that I'm going to be 100 percent by offseason workouts."
Before that, Haden chose to play through pain in hopes of giving the Browns their best chance at winning. After missing three games early in the year, he played in nine straight knowing he'd also have to bear a certain level of pain.
And in a season that saw Cleveland finish 1-15, Haden — who was named a Pro Bowl alternate — outlined why he kept suiting up when it might've been easy to sideline himself and rest.
"Coach Hue Jackson, he's a big part of it. He's the reason," Haden said.
"Like, he comes in here, he's a leader of men. For a coach that's a players coach that gives you his all, you can talk to, just a players coach, you want to give your all for those kinds of guys. So for me, being hurt, I just had to show him that coach, I'm here for you. And that's going to set an example for the younger guys that, 'hey, if you've got a couple bumps and bruises, you're not ever going to be 100 percent so you've got to give it your all, you've got to do what you've got to do."
Jackson praised Haden's approach before the team's season finale against the Steelers.
"I think it shows the commitment that he wants to be out there," he said. "He has done everything I have asked him to do. I'm proud of him for being out there with his teammates and fighting through when things are not just perfect because it is not just perfect for any football player at this time of the year. Obviously, not [perfect for] him with what he is going through, but he's out there and he is to be commended for it."
Haden, who was named a captain before the season, has long spoken of a desire to lead a youth-laden Browns team by example.
"Your guys need you and I was just trying to show them that, no matter what's going on, no matter what situation you're in, no matter how many wins we got, each week I'm trying to be out there with you all so we can get that one," he said.
"So just showing them that you have to fight though stuff, you got to play through stuff, playing in the last game when we have nothing to play for, I'm gonna be out there because I want to be with you guys."