Haden missed practice Friday for the second straight day after straining an oblique muscle Wednesday during position drills. He was listed as questionable on the official injury report.
“He’ll be a gametime decision,” coach Pat Shurmur said after practice. “It’s something that can happen with a very harmless movement.
“He feels better today. We’ll get him ready to go and if he can play, he will. If not, then we’ll adjust.”
Haden, who served a four-game suspension in Weeks 2-5 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, was excited to return after the bye and vowed to play like a “lockdown dude again” and help the team make a second-half push. The Browns went 0-4 without him and gave up 30.5 points per game.
“Joe definitely wants to play and he’s doing everything he can to get back,” said nickelback Buster Skrine, who would replace Haden in the starting lineup. “He’s going to do whatever he can do to get out there.”
The Browns are already short-handed at corner with Dimitri Patterson still sidelined by a high ankle sprain and torn ligaments. He will miss his fifth straight game.
If Haden doesn’t play, Sheldon Brown and Skrine would start, with rookie Trevin Wade as the nickelback. Rookie Johnson Bademosi is the only other healthy corner, and he hasn’t played a snap on defense this year. Safeties Usama Young, Eric Hagg and Tashaun Gipson could also be used in coverage.
“Let’s not everybody get worried now,” Shurmur said. “The next guy will do a terrific job (if needed), that’s what’s going to happen.”
“We’re going to load up the plane with our guys, go down there and play a football game. I’m excited about the work we put in. I’m excited about the team we’re going to take down there, and we’re going to make every effort to do what it takes to win the game.”
Wade played as the nickelback a couple of times early in the year because of injuries but has been used rarely in the month since Haden’s return. He would face veteran playmaking receiver Miles Austin in the slot.
“He’s one of the rookies that have been in here that has done an outstanding job of getting up to speed,” Shurmur said. “He gets better every time he gets an opportunity to either practice or play.”
Safety/special teamer Ray “Bubba” Ventrone was ruled out for Sunday. He’s listed on the injury report with calf and hand injuries and wouldn’t specify which he hurt Thursday in special teams drills.
“He’s a very dependable guy that finds a way to make plays,” Shurmur said.
Ventrone called the injury “day-to-day.”
• Defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin (calf) was listed as questionable but said the leg feels good and he expects to play. He’s missed all but seven snaps of the last four games.
“Rubin had a great week of practice,” Shurmur said.
• The Cowboys ruled out center Phil Costa (ankle), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (ankle). Center/guard Ryan Cook (knee), cornerback Mike Jenkins (back) and starting running back DeMarco Murray (foot) were listed as doubtful.
• Former Browns fullback Lawrence Vickers (knee) was listed as probable.
A Dallas fan
Kicker Phil Dawson has spent his entire 14-year career with the Browns. Before that, his heart belonged to the Cowboys.
“I had a Doomsday Defense poster on my wall,” he said. “Obviously my high school years was the dynasty with the three Super Bowls (in the 1990s). I was pretty spoiled as a football fan.”
Dawson grew up in the Dallas area, and his dad had season tickets. He would take homework to do during the games at Texas Stadium. He played there in high school and once with the Browns.
“I loved Bill Bates,” he said. “I didn’t know I’d wind up being a special teams guy, but I always kind of pulled for the underdog and he was an undrafted guy that was supposed to be too small and too slow but played forever down there.”
Dawson, who was inducted into the University of Texas hall of fame last week, said his son Dru is a huge Cowboys fans — but isn’t allowed to root for them this week.
“His bedroom is blue, all the Fathead stuff all over the walls,” Dawson said. “He’s got the Star, the NFL emblem, he’s got the stadium. And then there’s obviously Browns helmets.”
A site to behold
The Browns will play their first game in Cowboys Stadium, which opened in 2009.
The most striking feature is the giant video screen that hangs above the field. Each of the four sides is the world’s largest LED display at 72 feet by 160 feet. It would take 4,920 52-inch flat-panel TVs to match it.
“Just wait till you see this thing, it’s unbelievable,” said quarterback Brandon Weeden, who was there for the Cotton Bowl as an Oklahoma State backup. “If you’re sitting right in the middle of the stadium, there’s no way you can watch the game. This thing just takes up too much space.
“It’s overwhelming if you’re sitting in the stands. You can’t help but look at it.”
Brown played there twice with the Eagles.
“It’s unbelievable. You can go home, sit in your couch and you can watch a 110-inch dropdown monitor and the difference is you’re actually going to go in a stadium that’s a 100-yard football field,” he said. “It’s an awesome venue and every fan should experience that venue at least once.”
Skrine welcomed his first daughter, Grace, earlier this week.
• Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron shared his memories of old Cleveland Stadium.
“You’re up in that coaches box and when good things happened for the Browns, and they happened a lot, the fans would start stomping their feet and that box would sway up and down,” he said. “And the Astrodirt, we used to call it Astrodirt, painted green.”
• President Mike Holmgren and his family donated $10,000 to the Salvation Army’s annual campaign, and the Browns matched. Holmgren’s grandparents were officers in the Salvation Army.