The Browns couldn’t win without Joe Haden. They may have to try again.
Haden missed practice on Thursday with an oblique injury, and Cleveland may be missing its top cornerback — and arguably its best defensive player — on Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
Haden, who was suspended four games by the NFL earlier this season for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs, got hurt during a drill in Wednesday’s practice. He stayed on the field and was listed as “limited” on the Browns’ injury report, but he did not participate at all on Thursday and his status for this week’s game remains uncertain.
It’s another setback for Cleveland’s defense, which has been ravaged by injuries all season. Starting tackle Ahtyba Rubin is expected to return this week after missing three games with a calf injury, but if Haden can’t play, the Browns will again be forced to adjust.
“When anyone’s down, especially a starter, it hurts,” safety T.J. Ward said. “Not having Joe will hurt us, but the next guy just has to step up. That’s how it’s been all year. We haven’t had our complete defense on the field at any point. It just seems like everyone’s starting to get back and Joe, I won’t say he went down, but he hasn’t been practicing. Hopefully we can have him this weekend.”
Haden would likely be responsible for covering Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who has 45 catches for 590 yards and three touchdowns.
While Haden served his suspension for testing positive for the stimulant Adderall, the Browns went 0-4. They’re 2-2 since he returned and Haden’s presence has not only bolstered Cleveland’s secondary, but he has forced opposing teams to game plan differently.
Cleveland’s secondary is already missing cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who has been sidelined the past four games with a severe ankle injury and has not yet been cleared to practice.