The lynchpin of the Cleveland Browns' defense (some might say their entire team) will make his return on Sunday afternoon when the team takes on the Cincinnati Bengals, as Joe Haden returns from a four-game suspension.
Haden officially came back on Monday, working out and practicing with the team. He spent a lot of time apologizing to the team and fans, according to Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
I hurt myself for sure, but I hurt a lot of people with the decision I made and I just want everybody to know that I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart. There's no script. Nobody told me what to say. Everybody makes mistakes, but my mistake happened to hurt a lot more people than I thought.
With all the controversy of Adderall and apologies out of the way, Haden can finally focus on doing what he does best: play cornerback in the National Football League. There are few in the business who do it better than him, and the Browns are in desperate need of some help to end their season-long, five-game losing streak.
How many games will the Browns win in 2012?
The Browns are a franchise in a state of flux. You can't say that they are in turmoil because there is a clear structure at the top and the roster does have some talent, but they are embroiled in a rebuild that is going to take a lot of time to pay off.
However, what Haden presents in the secondary will be the missing piece the Browns need to get off the schneid. Without him, the Browns rank 26th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing nearly 281 yards per game.
Last year with Haden, they finished second in the NFL in pass defense (185 yards per game). He wasn't the only member of the secondary responsible for that success, but he was the best part of it.
There are few defensive backs you can label as shutdown defenders. Haden definitely falls in that category.
The Browns need an impact player somewhere, anywhere on the field to help them. Haden is the equivalent of a Major League Baseball team acquiring a middle-of-the-order hitter at the trade deadline.
Plus, it is not like the Browns have been completely embarrassing themselves on the field. Four of their five losses have come by seven points or less. With a defensive stopper on the outside to take away half the field, they can start winning some of those games.
Given the inconsistency of the Bengals through five games, an emotional spark is just what the Browns need to get their first win of the season. Haden will lead this team to a nice victory in his first game back.