CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Browns gave up on seeing if two-time Pro Bowl defensive back Joe Haden could return to his all-star form after a pair of injury-riddled seasons, but self-confidence has never been a problem for the eight-year cornerback.
Now a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom the Browns open the 2017 regular season against at FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday, Haden believes he can still be an impactful player in the National Football League.
“I definitely feel as if I still have it,” Haden said in a conference call with the Cleveland media. “No hard feelings with anybody, but I feel like I’m the best corner in the division.”
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Since signing a long-term contract extension in 2014, Haden missed 15 games because of a wide variety of injuries, everything from a pair of concussions that short-circuited his 2015 season to finger and groin issues that forced him to the sideline for multiple games.
“This year, I’m expecting to be back healthy, feeling good and ready to go,” Haden said. “It was just a business decision that they made that the salary wasn’t matching up to my last two years of production. That is really how they felt, so they decided that they wanted to cut my salary.”
A first-round pick out of the University of Florida in the 2010 NFL Draft, Haden was the second-longest tenured Browns player, behind only 10-time Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas.
In his seven seasons with the Browns, Haden registered 376 total tackles, including 311 solo stops, 65 assists, two sacks, 101 passes defended, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and 19 interceptions, which he returned for 231 yards and one touchdown.
“You know that happens all the time,” Haden said. “People get released. It happens. I just feel like I’m honored that Pittsburgh didn’t feel that way. They feel like I still have a lot to give, and they are very, very excited for me to be here. They are so welcoming. It is just as if it is a new chapter for me, and I’m excited.”
When Haden wasn’t studying for an upcoming game or fine-tuning his skills with the Browns, he was often seen sitting courtside with family and friends at Cleveland Cavaliers games at Quicken Loans Arena or at his store inside Tower City Center, The Restock, where patrons could find rare, hard-to-find sneakers.
And Haden’s love for Cleveland will not stop just because he plays for the Steelers.
“Oh, I’m still going to be at the Q for sure -- playoff games and all,” Haden said. “I went to Summer Jam last Saturday at The Q. I’m still going to be in Cleveland. I still have my store there. I’m not going to close my store.
“I have reasons to still be up there. I have a lot of friends that I have up there, so Cleveland is still going to be a spot that I come to. For sure, I will be at the playoff games because the Cavs are still my favorite team. That won’t change anything.”