The Joe Haden suspension saga isn’t over, but it’s dragged on so long it looks like he’ll play Sunday in the season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles.
“Typically, suspensions come down on Monday or Tuesday, but there is no set cutoff,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email.
Today is the start of a normal practice week, so waiting past Tuesday puts the team at a competitive disadvantage.
“I suspect if we haven’t heard by now, that we’ll have him for the first game,” Browns president Mike Holmgren said Tuesday morning in a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan. “But I don’t know for sure.”
Holmgren revealed that Haden, the team’s No. 1 cornerback, was awaiting word on his appeal of a four-game suspension for failing an offseason drug test.
“He’s had his appeal hearing, and now it’s up to someone else,” Holmgren said. “And we don’t know.”
The league’s policy is to not comment on a suspension until it’s official, including standing up to an appeal. So if Haden wins the appeal, the league won’t have a comment.
The NFL also tells team officials not to comment. The Browns had honored that until Holmgren, by revealing the appeal, confirmed a suspension that was rumored but not known for sure.
Haden declined to discuss the situation Monday in the locker room after practice and said he didn’t know if he’d be able to play Sunday.
“There’s just really nothing I can talk about about any of the situation, at all,” he said.
Haden tested positive for Adderall, ESPNCleveland reported last month. Adderall is a stimulant commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It’s on the league’s banned list of performance-enhancing drugs.
The appeal will hinge on whether he can prove he had an exemption from the league to take the drug.
Haden has known about the failed test for more than a month, and the report broke on Aug. 8. He said it hasn’t been a distraction or hindered his preparation.
“I was just working on getting better,” he said. “It didn’t really bother me at all. It didn’t bother my teammates, my coaches.
“In the locker room, everybody’s cool. You just keep going, just keep playing, just keep practicing, that’s what I like about all the teammates, it’s like nothing’s going on. They’re just my family basically, so we’re just going.”
His preseason performance backed up his words. He was around the ball every day, intercepting or breaking up passes. He’s excited for the start of the season and hopes to play all 16 games.
“I’m more ready than I’ve been ever playing this position,” he said. “I feel like this is the best I’ve been playing at corner in my life. I’ve just become really comfortable at the position, I’m starting to understand concepts and starting to understand a whole lot, so the game is really slowing down for me.
“I was always pretty good at press (coverage) but I worked on my off (coverage) and I’ve just been watching film and been just not afraid to get beat. If you play not to get beat, then that’s how you let people catch comebacks and stuff on you. But if you play what you see and just go for it, and that’s how I play now.”
Haden has extra incentive to be on the field Sunday. He grew up idolizing Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and calls him his favorite player of all time.
“Because I played quarterback my whole life, and I wanted to be like him,” said Haden, who switched to cornerback at the University of Florida. “He did it the way I wanted to do it.”
If Haden is suspended — starting this week or later — nickelback Dimitri Patterson would start in his spot. In three-receiver sets, Buster Skrine would play on the outside and Patterson would return to the slot. The Eagles will test whoever’s at corner with receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.
“Obviously, that’s a blow. No doubt about it,” Patterson said of a possible Haden suspension. “But, hey, it’s professional football. It’s not Pop Warner. You’ve got to step in and be a professional. It’s as simple as that.”
Patterson returned to practice Monday after injuring his knee and ankle Aug. 10 against Detroit. He declared himself ready to go for Sunday.
“He’s really, really valuable,” Haden said. “As a nickel cover corner, he’s one of the best. He’s physical, fast, great blitzer, he just knows how to handle slots.
“We knew he’s a really good player and for preseason we didn’t need him to prove anything. So I’m just glad he was able to rest and get himself back to 100 percent.”