Haden on hand for first practice with Browns
The first-round draft pick, taken seventh overall, worked out at cornerback as the Browns went through their second day of camp on a hot Sunday before around 3,000 fans at their practice facility.
“I said, well, you all better give me a number besides 40 because I didn’t really like that number too much,” he said of the number he wore during rookie camp. “We worked it out and I got 23.”
Haden said he didn’t like 40 because it didn’t make him look fast enough.
A big fan of LeBron James, who of course left Cleveland to join the Miami Heat, Haden said he was disappointed that the Cavaliers’ No. 23 had left town.
“I was a little bummed because I definitely wanted to be a season-ticket holder,” he said.
He could sure afford it. The former Florida standout held out until signing a five-year deal on Saturday worth $50 million, with $26 million guaranteed.
“Those are kind of big numbers,” he said. “It did blow my mind at first. It’s just a blessing and an honor to know that I’m getting paid to do what I love. Now I’m just trying to get on the field and make the team welcome me. I definitely felt good when I came into the locker room how everybody was saying, ‘Hey, Big Money! Big Money!’ All this stuff. They’re just embracing me and have a good time.”
Coach Eric Mangini said Haden was capable of handling the pressures that come with joining the league, the big contract and adapting to the game.
“He’s a smart kid, a good person, a hardworking kid,” he said. “That will serve him well.”
During his first official practice as a Brown, Haden shared time with the other cornerbacks with whom he will battle for playing time.
At times he was matched up against receiver-kicker returner Josh Cribbs— perhaps the Browns most popular and best-known player—but no passes were thrown in their direction.
Most people believe it will come down to Haden and Wright for the starting spot.
“I’ve been challenged since I was a rookie coming in here trying to start,” said Wright, a fifth-year pro who started all 16 games a year ago for the Browns while intercepting four passes and totaling 65 tackles. “I stepped up to the plate as a rookie and was able to start early and get some playing time. You know, competition brings the best out of everybody and the cream will rise to the top.”
Haden adds speed and athleticism to a secondary that needs a dose of both. He’s willing to contribute in a number of ways.
“I just want to go out here and give (receivers) coach (George McDonald) whatever I can do. If he ends up giving me a starting job, that’s a blessing. But I’m just trying to go out and compete. It’s definitely what I want to do, of course. Everybody wants to start. But I’m just trying to put my best foot forward.”
Haden, who passed a conditioning test Saturday, posted messages to his Twitter account before his first practice that said, “Love being back with the team. … I’m happy to be here.”
He said he has already won another job.
“I just had to bring sunflower seeds to the meetings so far,” he said. “When all the boys need sunflower seeds, I’m the sunflower seed guy.”
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