|Browns cornerback Joe Haden says he has always had a good relationship with fans, and he's hoping that will still be the case when he returns to action Sunday after a four-game drug suspension. (US Presswire)|
One might scoff at the notion that the four-game drug suspension served by Browns cornerback Joe Haden has a silver lining. After all, it might have cost the Browns two victories.
Granted, it's a sliver of a silver lining. But at least Haden is well-rested.
"I feel better because I got a chance to rest my legs," he said. "My wind is better than when I left."
Haden will need all the wind he can suck up on Sunday. He'll be going man-to-man against Bengals stud wide receiver A.J. Green.
Green lumps Haden in with Darrelle Revis and Johnathan Joseph as his toughest foe. That feeling of respect is mutual. The 5-11 Haden understands that he can blanket Green and still be outleaped for a reception.
"He's really an athletic guy," Haden said. "He's 6-4 with a 40-inch vertical leap. Guys like him are going to make plays. He's going to get his, but I feel like I'm going to get mine. You have to limit his plays, keep him in front of you and not let him go vertical."
If Green does "go vertical" for a touchdown or two, the Browns will likely leave the field with a franchise-worst 12-game losing streak. It's little consolation that their average margin of defeat of 7.3 is the smallest for any team that has lost 11 straight in NFL history. A loss is a loss -- and every one of them is wearing on Haden.
"I'm sick and tired of losing," he said. "Once we get that first win, the weight will be off our shoulders and we're going to want that feeling again. There's nothing else to talk about. We've been talking and it hasn't been working."
Haden is among the most popular athletes in Cleveland. He has made himself visible at Cavaliers games, which has been greatly appreciated for area fans seeking to embrace a rare sports hero. He admitted that his relationship with the fans took a hit when he was suspended, but he added that all is now well.
"There has been no negative feedback [since returning]," he said. "When I was gone -- definitely. I got it good. Of course I was [worried]. I'm a people person. I don't want to put a damper on everything I'd done."
Does he expect a positive reaction Sunday at Cleveland Browns Stadium?
"I hope so. [If not], once I get an interception, it will turn around."
Coach Pat Shurmur has already noted a difference in the secondary with Haden on the field.
"He's the same old Joe," he said. "His presence has already been felt watching him challenge balls and challenge receivers."
Shurmur added that Haden made an interception in practice on Friday.
Weeden to Cooper II? A day has passed since Josh Cribbs seemed to spill the beans and state that fellow WR Josh Cooper has been promoted from the practice squad. The move, however, still hasn't been confirmed. Even Cooper says he has heard nothing.
Cooper said he has worked some on the scout team and some with the first-team offense in practice this week. If he is activated for the game Sunday against Cincinnati, it would mark a reunion of sorts with quarterback Brandon Weeden. The two connected for many plays at Oklahoma State.
"I feel prepared," Cooper said. "I understand the game plan. It would be great to go out and play."
His status might be dependent on that of rookie wide receiver Travis Benjamin (hamstring), who returned to practice Friday on a limited basis. Cooper might remain on the practice squad if Benjamin is able to play.
Cooper believes the rapport he established with Weeden in college could translate to immediate success at the NFL level. The Browns certainly need an upgrade at wide receiver, particularly if he can consistenly catch the ball. He labels himself as an "inside possession receiver and route runner."
JMJ A-OK: Coach Pat Shurmur said rookie outside linebacker
Johnson was slated to start coming out of training camp before an oblique injury sidelined him the first four weeks of the regular season. He was used exclusively on special teams last week against the Giants.
He will receive plenty of playing time against Cincinnati if Scott Fujita (shoulder) can't play. Fujita said early in the week he would be ready, but he hasn't practiced the last two days.
"I anticipate [Johnson] will have a pretty darn good chance to play," Shurmur said. "This week he's much more ready to play scrimmage downs."
Bits and pieces: Owner-to-be Jimmy Haslam has purchased a home in the Cleveland suburb of Bratenahl for $4.1 million. He is expected to be approved by the NFL on Tuesday. ... RB Trent Richardson leads the Browns in rushing yards (303) and receptions (20). His 169 receiving yards is second to WR Josh Gordon (175).
Stay dialed in on the Cleveland Browns on Twitter at @CBSBrowns throughout the season with on-site updates from CBSSports.com RapidReports correspondent Marty Gitlin.