Fully healthy, Joe Haden is planning on returning to the form that made him a two-time Pro Bowl performer in 2013 and 2014
BEREA, Ohio--Joe Haden is ready to go.
After two injury-plagued seasons in 2015 and 2016, Haden was ready to turn the page to 2017 quickly after the season ended.
"I was ready as soon as the last game ended, I was ready to get back into this season," Haden said on the second day of OTAs. "I knew I was going to have to have my surgery so I wanted to get that done as soon as possible so I'd be 100 percent for these OTAs and offseason workouts. I'm just ready to get back to being a No. 1 corner. I'm just ready to get back out there, ready to make some plays, ready to turn this thing around."
Haden made the Pro Bowl in 2013 and 2014 and has 101 passes broken up in his career to rank second in the NFL since he entered the NFL in 2010.
Haden was asked if he felt he can still be a top-tier cornerback in the NFL.
"To answer your question, of course, I think I can be the best corner in the game still," Haden said after initially hesitating on his reply. "This is my eighth season, I just turned 28, I'm ready to get after it. Without the injuries, without the stuff -- it's been a lot, it's been tough, trying to fight through it but I feel like when I'm out there healthy, can't nobody mess with me."
Haden played in 13 games in 2016 and had 48 tackles, three interceptions and 11 passes broken up. He missed three games with groin injuries, in which he had surgery on both after the season.
Haden said he heard the grumblings about him not being an elite cornerback being able to stay with NFL receivers, but he said those who know him would've noticed that he wasn't able to run the way he normally does.
"They see it in the way I was running," he said. "I couldn't open up. I couldn't run full speed. It was just tough to be out there a little handicapped, but it is what it is. I was trying to fight through it, trying to do the best I could."
In 2015, Haden played in just five games after suffering numerous injuries, including a couple of concussions, a rib injury, finger injury and an ankle injury. He finished the season on injured reserve.
Haden played through his groin injuries last season and new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told him he would've asked for the Browns to replace him if he wouldn't have played through the injuries.
“(Williams has) been challenging me, for sure," Haden said. "When I first got here and I met him, I went up to his office and we talked for a while, just about my toughness and about the biggest thing he told me was ‘if you didn’t play through your injury I would tell them to get you out of here.’ So he was in my face as soon as I met him.”
The Browns need a bounce back year from Haden as their secondary is the most questionable area of the defense.
Haden said his top priority is to stay healthy and everything will take care of itself.
“Just be healthy," he said. "That’s one thing you can’t control. I’m trying to control that. I feel healthy now and as long as I’m out there being able to be healthy and taking care of my body, that’s the biggest thing. I don’t feel like anything else is a factor. That’s just it.”
Despite two surgeries after the season, Haden said he's feeling good as the off-season program begins.
"I'm good to go," he said. "Good to go. Feeling good. Feeling fresh."
Haden refuses to let the past keep him down.
"I got a good spirit," he said. "I stay in good spirits. I stay prayed up. Everything happens for a reason. Setback for a comeback, that's how I always look at it, so I'm just ready to go."