BEREA — Browns cornerback Joe Haden has his fingers and toes crossed, hoping to hear his name called tonight when the NFL unveils its Pro Bowl rosters.
A total of 86 players will be chosen for the Jan. 26 game in Hawaii, but will not be equally divided between AFC and NFC representatives for the first time.
Whether that negatively affects Cleveland’s top candidates — Haden, wide receiver Josh Gordon, tackle Joe Thomas, tight end Jordan Cameron and safety T.J. Ward — will be revealed at 9 p.m. on NFL Network.
“I did everything I could this season, so I hope it’s good enough,” Haden said Thursday. “Your play speaks for itself, but if I don’t make the Pro Bowl, I’d be upset.
“At the end of the day, though, the individual goals are cool, but we still want more wins.”
Though the fourth-year pro hasn’t ended the season on a high note, largely because of a left hip pointer, his statistics are among the NFL’s best at his position.
Haden ranks third in the league with 20 passes defensed, while his four interceptions are tied for seventh. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder also sits sixth on the Browns with 54 solo tackles.
“I could do better, and speaking of the team, I need to finish better myself,” he said. “I did a lot better at the beginning of the season, but I’m not worn down at all. It’s not like a major drop-off, but I’ve just got to stay focused.
“Sometimes, it’s just the offensive dude makes plays, and that just happened to be at the end of the year for me.”
Ironically, Haden said one of the main reasons for his superb season was being suspended by the NFL last year. He received a four-game ban for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy, which he claimed was for taking the stimulant Adderall.
The avowed bachelor also became engaged to Sarah Mahmoodshahi, who he subsequently married June 29.
“When I got suspended, and ended up getting married and engaged and everything, it just slowed everything down for me,” Haden said. “It made my life so much more simple. Now it’s just about playing ball and making sure my family is good.”
Horton looks back
Browns defensive coordinator Ray Horton became emotional in his final scheduled press conference when he was asked to review the season.
“I’m really disappointed that I didn’t do a better job to help us win more games,” Horton said, his voice wavering slightly. “We’ve had some chances in the fourth quarter to win games, but we didn’t finish. That falls on my shoulders.”
Cleveland’s defense has allowed the 10th-fewest yards in the league, but is largely responsible for the team’s current six-game losing streak.
The Browns have allowed at least 24 points in each of those defeats, starting with a 41-20 loss in Cincinnati on Nov. 18. The Bengals scored a franchise-record 31 points in the second quarter to erase Cleveland’s 13-0 lead.
“Throughout the year, we installed everything (in my scheme), but we didn’t call everything,” Horton said. “The foundation is here, schematically, along with the player development process. I’m looking forward to working with this group next season.”
Browns nose tackle Phil Taylor (concussion), guard Jason Pinkston (concussion), guard Shawn Lauvao (thigh), defensive end John Hughes (knee, elbow), tight end Andre Smith (calf), Cameron (concussion), Ward (shoulder) and Haden (hip) all sat out practice.
Guard John Greco (knee) and Thomas (back) were limited.
Full participants were linebackers Paul Kruger (illness) and Tank Carder (shoulder), safety Jordan Poyer (toe), tackle Mitchell Schwartz (toe), running back Willis McGahee (knee) and punter Spencer Lanning (left knee soreness).
* Steelers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders (knee), linebacker Jason Worilds (abdomen), guard David DeCastro (back) and linebacker Terence Garvin (knee) did not practice.
Safety Troy Polamalu (personal reasons), tight end Heath Miller (personal reasons), defensive end Brett Keisel (foot), linebacker Jarvis Jones (illness) and wide receiver Markus Wheaton (finger) took part in all team activities.
Defensive end Brian Sanford, who spent the last three years with the Browns, was re-signed Thursday. The 6-foot-2, 280-pounder was released by Cleveland on Aug. 31, but played in five games with the Raiders before being waived Dec. 7.
“I got the news on Christmas Eve, so it was like Merry Christmas to me,” Sanford said. “I was happy to be back in the NFL, but even happier to be coming back to Cleveland. I’m familiar with the team and the city, and I remember everyone here, so it was a real blessing.
“As long as I’ve got a helmet and shoulder pads, I’m giddy.”
Sanford appeared in six games during his previous stint with the Browns, making five tackles. He filled the 53-man roster spot vacated by wide receiver Davone Bess, who was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.
No doubting Thomas
Thomas became the first two-time winner of the “Good Guy Award” given annually by the Cleveland chapter of the Pro Football Writers of America. The group announced its two honorees Thursday, also unanimously voting for Gordon as its “Player of the Year.”
The “Good Guy Award” is given to the player who does his best to accommodate the media throughout the season, and represents the Browns well in the community and in the locker room.
Thomas was one of 11 players nominated by local writers. The seventh-year pro and six-time Pro Bowl selection previously received the honor in 2010.
Thomas and Gordon will receive their plaques in May at the annual Akron Browns Backers banquet.
The Browns signed rookie wide receiver Conner Vernon — a member of the Raiders training camp roster — to their practice squad. Cleveland also re-signed running back Jamaine Cook to its practice squad, a day after releasing the Middleburg Heights native.
* Spero Dedes and Steve Beuerlein will call the Browns/Steelers game on CBS. It will air on the network’s affiliates in Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown, along with the entire state of West Virginia, and all of Pennsylvania (except for Harrisburg).
The game will receive national radio coverage on Sports USA with Adam Amin and Ross Tucker. A simulcast will be available on SiriusXM Channel 807.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.