We looked past the diamond encrusted pendants that swung from his neck like a pendulum. We looked past the sunglasses indoors phenomenon that was so eloquently embraced. We did so because what happened on the field of play; a highly talented player isn’t exactly the norm when it comes to post-1999 Cleveland Browns football. Having a player who can make a game-changing play at nearly any time is a luxury. But if that player is going to miss up to four games in what is proving to be a very critical season, forcing an already weak reserve unit to compensate for his high-priced antics, one has to wonder if Joe Haden’s act will start to wear thin on some fans.
Haden’s resume is one that stretches well beyond the field of play. The 23-year-old cornerback came on to the scene in a very successful fashion having stepping in for an injured Eric Wright, becoming the first player since the late 1960s to intercept a pass in four consecutive contests. In totality, he hauled in six interceptions to go with his 64 tackles and one forced fumble. Since then, with much proliferation due to the Internet — specifically Twitter and Instagram — Haden took the term “fashion” to the next level. Rarely does a day go by when Haden isn’t disseminating pictures of his closet, rife with more hightop Jordans than could outfit the entire Eastern Conference. Lately, however, Haden has even raised his own bar by ensuring the entire town is aware of his crisp white Lamborghini Murcielago. The one that shares a garage with his Range Rover, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Bentley Continental, BMW X6, and Rolls Royce.
He hasn’t intercepted a pass since December 26, 2010.
Certainly, these actions and acquired material items are not out of the realm of reality when it comes to a young multi-millionaire. Signing a $50 million deal with the Browns, Haden has been afforded things that are relegated to the pages of glossy magazines and Robin Leach specials when it comes to the majority of Browns fans. Courtside for Cavalier games1, autograph-signing appearances by the truckload and taking fans to their high school prom are all “day in the life” items for the baller status symbol that is Joe Haden. But as fan favorite for his actions on the field and his immediate willingness to embrace the city of Cleveland despite having known little of it prior to being drafted with the seventh-overall pick in 2010, Haden’s jet-setting may ultimately serve to cause him to miss a quarter of the 2012 NFL season, a season where ownership changes may only be the tip of the turnover iceberg.
It started as a rumor that many of us wanted to quickly sweep them under the orange and brown area rug. Then once the reports resurfaced, we clung to hopes that Haden had a prescription; we wanted to trivialize the drug as something that the run-of-the-mill collegiate student takes merely so he or she can finish a term paper in the wee hours of the night. But now that reports are surfacing that the Adderall-based charges are a combination of bad luck mixed with the rigor of a high-profile lifestyle, dissipating are the benefit-of-the-doubt opinions that were afforded to Haden during a season that saw him burnt by opposing wide receivers with the same frequency of a blackjack dealer or a roulette wheel.
Phil Taylor and Chris Gocong will miss time due to football-related activities. Scott Fujita will likely miss time due to a paper trail. If Haden misses time, it will be rooted more in selfishness than chivalry.
Haden will likely appeal any suspension which stems from this incident. The NFL has been inconsistent at best when it comes to testing positive for prescription medications, employing what is called a Therapeutic Use Exemption. Potentially helping Haden’s case is the fact that there was not much of a performance to enhance unless Roger Goodell has a stake in Caesar’s Palace. Certainly not hurting his case is his refusal to comment on matters, even if via some borderline third-person discourse. It is also speculated that, due to timing, Haden may actually have some luck on his side and an appeal could possibly push back any sort of missed time2 beyond the 2012 season.
Haden would have had to qualify for any exemption prior to taking a random test at some point this summer. A suspension would also cost him any chance at being named to the Pro Bowl as well as any honor which could be bestowed upon him for amassing an otherwise excellent season in the 12 games for which he would be eligible. The Browns, however, are already expected to prepare for Haden’s absence by promoting recently injured Dimitri Patterson to a starting role while and auditioning second-year speedster Buster Skrine and rookie Trevin Wade for the third cornerback spot.
There is no doubt that the Cleveland Browns are a better team with Joe Haden on the field than they are without him. His unbridled swagger is often warranted given his skill set and relative standing amongst Cleveland fans. One scan through any mentions on the player’s Twitter feed and it’s apparent that “Haden Nation” is still behind him 100 percent. But given the upcoming schedule and monumental franchise-altering decisions which could be made based on the collective outcomes, if the NFL provides Haden with four additional weeks to cruise around in his arsenal of high-end automobiles while sharing pictures of his crisp white J’s, absolutely no one in Cleveland will benefit, regardless of how many autographs and prom dates he decides to hand out.
Photo via WFNY