BEREA — The Browns face Cincinnati, Buffalo, Baltimore and the New York Giants in the next four weeks. They will trot out No. 1 receivers A.J. Green, Steve Johnson, Torrey Smith and Hakeem Nicks.
The Browns won’t have No. 1 cornerback Joe Haden to try to shut them down.
Haden was suspended by the NFL on Monday afternoon for four games without pay for violating its policy on performance-enhancing substances. The suspension started immediately and he isn’t permitted to return to the team until Oct. 8, the day after the Giants game.
The suspension was announced by the NFL in a statement after coach Pat Shurmur’s news conference, and the team declined to comment.
Nickelback Dimitri Patterson will take Haden’s spot in the starting lineup. He started nine games with Philadelphia in 2010 and one last year for the Browns in 14 games.
Haden played the opener Sunday while awaiting word on his appeal. He had an interception, six tackles, a pass defensed and allowed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin in a 17-16 loss to the Eagles.
“There’s nothing like playing football,” Haden said after the game. “That’s what I’ve been trained to do my whole life and being out there with my teammates and T.J. (Ward, safety) and all the boys, you feel comfortable, you feel at home, you feel at peace. I was just happy to be out there playing with them.”
Haden knew it might be his last game for a while, and agent Drew Rosenhaus was waiting for him outside the locker room. Rosenhaus had no comment Monday.
Haden failed an offseason drug test, and ESPN Cleveland reported last month he tested positive for Adderall. The league’s policy is to not disclose any details of the failed test, but Adderall is on the list of banned substances. It’s commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.
Haden, in his third season, will forfeit four game checks worth $1,356,000 — 4/17ths of his $5.765 million salary — and will be ineligible for the Pro Bowl and other postseason awards. He had a great preseason and said last week he felt as good as he ever has entering a season.
The situation at cornerback may be even more unsettled after Sheldon Brown didn’t return Sunday after injuring his shoulder in the first quarter. He was hurt on a shoulder-to-shoulder collision with Eagles running back LeSean McCoy.
Brown has played all 161 regular-season games in his 11-year career and takes immense pride in having the second-longest active streak for a defensive back behind Tampa Bay’s Ronde Barber at 225.
Shurmur was asked if Brown will be ready for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati.
“Yeah, I think he will be,” he said.
If Brown plays, he and Patterson would start. Against three receivers, Patterson would move into the slot with Buster Skrine on the outside.
If Brown can’t go, Patterson and Skrine would be the starters. Skrine, a fifth-round pick in 2011 out of Tennessee-Chattanooga, would be making his first NFL start. He played 47 snaps against the Eagles and had seven tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass defensed and a quarterback hit. He allowed a 46-yard completion to Maclin that set up a touchdown late in the first half.
Rookie seventh-rounder Trevin Wade would be the nickelback. He was inactive Sunday after a solid preseason.
“Buster Skrine played real strong yesterday,” Patterson said. “After looking at the film, I’m very confident in Buster that he can come in and play very well. It’s the NFL, guys will get opportunity and they’re going to make the best of it.
“Nobody wants to be sitting on the bench watching. So anybody that’s behind somebody, they want to play. The guy that’s sitting in the hole, trust me, he’s excited to play.”
Green, who made the All-Rookie team last year, is first up for the Browns. In last year’s opener, Haden held him to one catch for 41 yards — the winning touchdown when the Browns were late getting out of the huddle. In the rematch in Cincinnati, Green had three catches for 110 yards, including a 51-yarder on third down to set up the winning field goal.
Patterson played 85 of the 95 (89 percent) defensive snaps against the Eagles. He opened as the nickelback, then moved outside when Brown got hurt. He downplayed the difficulty of making the switch during a game.
“It’s more conditioning than anything else playing outside and inside,” said Patterson, who missed three weeks in the preseason with ankle and knee injuries. “Outside of that, everything else is pretty much the same.”
Haden, who played all 95 snaps Sunday, developed into a shutdown corner last year, starting all 15 games he played and totaling 65 tackles and 19 passes defensed. He didn’t have an interception but had five as a rookie.
Haden wouldn’t discuss the drug test or possible suspension in the last month, but talked in general terms when the news broke Aug. 8.
“Everybody knows who I am,” he said. “Honestly, my friends and my family, they know exactly who I am. All the Haden Nation supporters, they know who I am, and you can’t put up a front.”