“Everybody makes mistakes, but my mistake happened to hurt a lot more people than I thought,” he said.
His four-game suspension for taking the stimulant Adderall ended Monday and he was allowed back inside team headquarters for the first time since Sept. 10. When he was banned, the Browns were coming off a disappointing yet encouraging one-point loss to the Eagles in the opener. He rejoined an 0-5 team that can’t close a game and had its secondary ravaged without its No. 1 cornerback.
“I would like to apologize to my fans, Haden Nation, the Cleveland Browns organization, front office, all the coaches,” Haden said. “I just want everybody to know that I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart.
“It was just a mistake, just a very dumb mistake. It was just a young man making a decision I shouldn’t have made.”
Haden confirmed Adderall was the reason he failed the NFL’s drug test. It’s on the league’s list of performance-enhancing drugs.
“I took Adderall and I shouldn’t have, and I got suspended, and now I’m back,” he said.
Haden’s appeal was denied before the suspension went into effect. He was asked if he appealed because he had a prescription.
“I appealed it because of the situation where me and my agent had an angle that we were wanting to go at it,” he said, referring to Drew Rosenhaus. “That way that I ended up taking it, that we thought we’d be able to get out of it, but it didn’t work.”
Haden arrived at the facility early and met with coaches and teammates. He said he was welcomed with open arms, including those of coach Pat Shurmur.
“Me and Coach, we have a special relationship,” Haden said. “We get along really well. I definitely apologized to him, and one thing he was really about was, ‘All right, Joe, we can’t be upset about this. We have to move forward.’
“I’m telling him I’m sorry and he’s trying to give me the game plan.”
Shurmur watched part of Haden’s news conference in the locker room, then hugged him.
“I can’t wait to go to work,” Shurmur told him.
Earlier, Shurmur wouldn’t say if he expressed disappointment or anger in their meeting.
“We just talked about what we’re going to do as we progress. Beyond that I’ll keep it private,” he said.
Haden spent the time off working out at his family’s gym near his hometown of Fort Washington, Md. He watched the games on TV, experiencing them like a fan.
“I didn’t like that look at all,” he said. “I wanted to be playing. Nothing is like being out here and playing with my boys on Sunday, just missing being in the locker room.”
Haden has been called Mr. Cleveland because he is seen throughout the city and at Cavaliers and Indians games. He lives a fun lifestyle and has a fleet of expensive cars.
He met with defensive leaders D’Qwell Jackson, Scott Fujita and Sheldon Brown on Monday to make sure he was in good standing. He was asked if they urged him to alter his priorities.
“That’s my personal stuff,” he said. “I’m blessed and am in a position to play the game that I love and make the money that I do.”
Haden got engaged during the suspension, but said it wasn’t part of a plan to settle down.
“We’ve been together like three years now, so it was going to happen eventually,” he said. “I just had a little more time on my hands than I wanted.
“You’re going to see the same Joe, just having a good time. But I’ve grown from it because you never really know what little things could impact so many people, and I’ve got to make sure I know that I’m not the only one in my circle.”
His absence devastated the pass defense, which entered Monday ranked 26th. Dimitri Patterson, Buster Skrine and rookie Trevin Wade saw increased playing time and didn’t handle it as well as hoped. Each allowed a touchdown catch to Victor Cruz on Sunday in a 41-27 loss to the Giants.
In the four games without Haden, the Browns allowed quarterbacks to complete 66 percent of their passes for 1,141 yards, 10 touchdowns and a staggering 103.3 rating. Haden usually locks down the top receiver, allowing coordinator Dick Jauron to shift coverage and freeing him to blitz more.
“I’m not saying I cost them (wins), I’m just saying that if I’m out there then I’m a definite help to the team,” he said.
Haden accepted the punishment, but that doesn’t mean he liked it. He was asked if he thought it was excessive.
“God, do I?” he said.
Part of the penalty that comes with a suspension for taking a performance enhancer is ineligibility for postseason awards, including the Pro Bowl. Earning his first trip to Hawaii was a primary goal for Haden.
“I did what I shouldn’t have done, so whatever punishment I’m willing to take,” he said. “I just know I’m going to have Pro Bowl numbers by the end of the year.”
Haden said he received texts from teammates throughout his time away to make sure he was OK.
“It’s overwhelming how legitimately we miss each other like a family,” he said. “The team had my back and they know I’ve got their back. I was happy that the coaches and everybody accepted me right back.”
- WHO: Cleveland vs. Cincinnati
- WHEN: Sunday, 1 p.m.
- WHERE: Cleveland Browns Stadium
- TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WMMS 100.7-FM, WTAM 1100-AM