By Tony Grossi
Browns cornerback Joe Haden was removed from practice by coach Pat Shurmur about 30 minutes into their work day for being too rough with rookie receiver Travis Benjamin.
Haden had been warned about pulling jerseys, a source said. After Haden dragged down Benjamin in the end zone during a red zone drill, Shurmur and Haden exchanged heated words. Both men lost their temper.
Haden was told to go to the locker room. He walked alone and removed his shoulder pads before he entered the team facility.
By the end of the work day, the situation had cooled. Haden was laughing and smiling at the afternoon walk-through. Afterward, Shurmur said to reporters, "Joe and I talked. Everything's fine. It's a dead issue. Get it out there."
But it was quite a sight to see Haden, one of the team leaders, getting thrown out of practice by his head coach six hours earlier.
In his opening remarks after the morning practice, which was the last one open to the public, Shurmur said, “This was practice No. 21. We’ve had 21 walk-throughs. As you might expect, none of us have had enough sleep in the last month and we get very emotional.”
When the first question came about the Haden incident, which already was reported by ESPNCleveland via Twitter, Shurmur got testy.
“I’m not gonna talk about it,” he said. “That’s between me and the player. I have a great deal of respect for Joe. If you want details, you’re going to have to find it on Twitter. My only apology is that I used bad language and the fans were here to see it.”
When a follow-up question was asked, Shurmur said, “Don’t ask. That’s between me and the player. Joe’s a great competitor and I appreciate what he does and who he is. I’m not talking about it anymore. You’ll have to go somewhere else to find out.”
Shurmur was then asked a general question about his policy about not tackling players to the ground.
“I think it’s important that we practice smart,” he said. “You have to be able to practice at game speed (without tackling). I want all of our guys to make it to the horse race. Everything I do, all my thoughts, revolve around our players and our team. I told the guys that.”
Benjamin, who missed a few practices and one preseason game because of undisclosed injuries, shrugged off the play of Haden, but did term Haden's play "a mistake."
“That’s just a defensive play,” Benjamin said. "When I caught the ball his intent was to try to knock the ball down. It so happened he dragged me down. It’s all about the game. Even though somebody catches the ball, you’re gonna want to make a defensive play, knock the ball out.
"It was a mistake he did, but I didn’t think he did it on purpose. You want everybody to be healthy for the season. You don’t want things like that to happen."
Josh Cribbs and other teammates downplayed the incident.
"Boys will be boys," Cribbs said. "Head coach is the head coach. He’s got to defuse a situation. I don’t really feel it was a situation. Nobody really talked about it. It’s nothing. It’s like players getting into fights in practice. You fight in practice then in locker room you laugh and joke and singing songs together.
"That’s how it is with the coach, as well. We love our coaches like the players. Because we have to fight with them. Because we don’t have no other head coach so we have to go into war with him. We’ve got to give him our all. And Joe does that as well.
Haden is facing a possible league suspension for testing for a banned substance in the offseason. The stress of the ordeal may be weighing on him. He has had a terrific camp and usually carries his happy go lucky attitude with him on and off the field.
A team source said there has been no indication from the league if and when Haden might face discipline for the reported positive test.
|Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com. |
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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