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Browns cornerback Joe Haden looks to rebound after slow start

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BEREA, Ohio — For the first time in his career, Browns Pro Bowl cornerback Joe Haden is facing questions about his play on the field.

"I'm one of my biggest critics and I know that I haven't been playing up to my ability," Haden said. "I'm down, I feel like I could play better. I know I could play better."

The latest example: In Cleveland's 23-21 loss on Sunday to the Ravens, Haden allowed a 32-yard catch by veteran wide receiver Steve Smith late in the fourth quarter, setting up Baltimore's game-winning field goal.

"It was unfortunate that it happened because we're in a bottom-line business," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "Joe, for the most part throughout the game, played very well."

"That's life in the NFL."

And cornerback is one of the most bottom-line positions in the sport.

Either you make the right play or you make a wide receiver look great.

"Being in man-to-man press, you've got to be ready for the ball to come at you at all times," Haden said. "You can play linebacker and miss a gap a little bit. You can play D-tackle and get moved out of your gap. You're at corner, every single play matters."

And when you're considered one of the best corners in the league, any mistakes you make are amplified.

But Haden has already faced some of the top receivers this season.

In addition to Smith's 101-yard day last week, the Steelers' Antonio Brown had 116 yards and a score against the Browns in Week 1. And Saints tight end Jimmy Graham scored on Haden in Week 2.

PHOTO: Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) catches a pass against Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith (89) catches a pass against Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

If Haden, in his fifth season, is going to remain one of the best corners in the league, he'll have to play his best in the key moments of games.

"He's played well at times, but as you can see, at some inopportune times he's not played well," Pettine said. "I think he'll admit that as well. That's what we talk about. The great ones are going to make big plays when it's needed, and I think that's one area where Joe will look to improve."

Haden echoes his coach's sentiment, and trusts things will turn around.

"I want to be great," he said. "I just need to keep working hard and those plays are going to come. It's nothing mysterious that I need to do differently."

But with Haden, there is a greater degree of accountability that takes place.

"We hold him accountable, but to say he's not playing like everybody thinks he should, I don't want to say that just yet," secondary coach Jeff Hafley said. "I think he's doing some really, really good things, but we've got to hold him accountable."

"He's in for 69 snaps. For 64 plays, he's taking away the best receiver on the other team. What everybody's seeing is three balls caught here and there. Unfortunately, they haven't been in very good times."

Still, the Browns are just three games into the season, and they've also had to contend with three Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks right off the bat.

Despite the slow start, Haden isn't about to let it change who he is as a player.

"I'm not panicking. I know my ability and I trust in my ability."

NOTES: QB Connor Shaw (illness) wasn't at practice Wednesday. ... Craig Robertson missed practice for the birth of his child. ... Pettine said there are no immediate plans to move on from long snapper Christian Yount, though the situation is still being evaluated. ... Wide receivers coach Mike McDaniel spoke with reporters after practice, saying he talks to suspended WR Josh Gordon often. "He does want to be great. He truly does," McDaniel said. "I'm just supportive of the stuff that he's going through and the stuff he's learning because he's just learning on the fly how to be an adult and an NFL player within the confines of our league."


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