BEREA - A remorseful Joe Haden returned to the Browns' family Monday just in time to pick up the pieces of what has become of the 2012 season.
When we last saw Haden, the Browns had lost to the Philadelphia Eagles, 17-16, in the season opener. The next day his four-game suspension for using a banned substance was announced, which put the Browns on a tailspin that's added four more losses to the record.
"I want to apologize to my fans, the Cleveland Browns organization and all the coaches," Haden said. "I hurt a lot of people, myself for sure. I want to let everyone know that I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart.
The Associated Press
In this July 29 file photo, Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden appears at NFL football training camp in Berea.
"It's no script. No one tells me what to say. Everyone makes a mistake, but my mistake happened to hurt a lot more people than I would have thought."
That's an understatement. One could argue that Haden's absence might have cost the Browns a chance to win perhaps two games - at Cincinnati and at Baltimore. It set off a shuffling of personnel that landed more playing time for Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine and Trevin Wade.
Opposing quarterbacks saw mismatches everywhere. With the offense not able to score enough points to keep up, a 0-5 start was inevitable.
Haden wouldn't go so far as to say that the Browns might have won one or two games if he had been available, but he knows he would have made a difference.
"I'm not saying I cost them," Haden said. "I'm just saying that I feel like if I'm out there I'm a definite help to the team. I'm not saying I would have gotten picks or anything, but I would have been able help the team."
One of Haden's first stops Monday morning was to coach Pat Shurmur's office. Haden was more interested in extending an apology. Shurmur was worried about getting Haden ready for Sunday's home game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
"Coach and me get along really well," Haden said. "Coach was about, 'Okay, Joe, we can't be upset about this. We have to move forward.' I'm telling him, 'I'm sorry.' He's trying to give me the game plan."
Shurmur is looking for bright spots after the 11th straight loss dating back to last season. Haden's return should help solidify the wounded secondary, which will be without the injured Patterson.
"He's one of our better defensive players," Shurmur said. "We're glad to have him back."
Haden avoided giving details of his suspension, which was for using the prescription drug Adderall. He neither confirmed nor disputed rumors that he took Adderall so he could stay alert for a night in Las Vegas.
"I'll just say I took Adderall," Haden said. "I shouldn't have, and now I'm back."
The NFL allows players to use prescription medication if they have permission from a doctor. Haden was unsuccessful in his appeal of the suspension, which created the perception that he had a good reason to take the drug.
"I appealed it because of the situation where me and my agent had an angle we wanted to go at it," he said. "The way I ended up taking it we thought we would have been able to get out it, but it didn't work."
Haden's return comes at an opportune time. His first assignment will be Bengals talented receiver A.J. Green.
"Perfect timing," Haden said. "I'm going to try to make a statement going against someone like him. Once I come back and do my thing in this game, then I'll just be right back."