A pair of Cleveland Browns defenders – Karlos Dansby and Joe Haden – dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Wednesday to discuss numerous topics, including the Special Olympics.
Haden recently became the first professional football player to ever be named a Special Olympics Global Ambassador. Why was Haden deserving of this honor?
It’s simple: He’s attended the Special Olympics since he was 7 years old.
“My little brother, Jacob, he’s a Special Olympic athlete,” Haden, 25, explained on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “I was at so many bocce ball games, so many track and field events. I was just going to all of those (events), and just to see those kids, man, I’m telling you – it’s so amazing to just see how happy they are coming through the line. It doesn’t matter first place or last place. Any ribbon is like a Super Bowl win to those kids. It puts everything into perspective.”
Speaking of perspective, you need a little bit of that when assessing Cleveland’s 2014 season. Yes, the Browns finished 7-9, but that was their best season since 2007 – and their second-best season since 2002.
Unfortunately, the 2014 campaign has a glass-half-empty feel, as the Browns started 7-4 before closing with a five-game losing streak.
“Nobody seen it coming,” Dansby said of the late-season swoon. “That’s the thing. That’s what’s so disappointing about it – because we was all on track. We was all focused. We was all on board to making this thing work and being special. That’s all we talked about was being special. And for us not to finish strong like we wanted to, it was very unfortunate. It was something we couldn’t control. It was very disappointing.”
The Browns were hit hard by injuries this season. Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, for example, broke his leg in October.
“It kind of killed the run game for us,” Haden said. “Our offense was really run the ball, run the ball, play-action pass. When we lost Alex Mack, we kind of lost the mojo, I feel like.”
The Browns finished 20th in passing and 17th in rushing, and they’re hoping Johnny Manziel can contribute more next season than he did as a rookie. Manziel went 18-of-35 for 175 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions in five games.
What does Manziel have to do to get better?
“I think it’s simple, man,” Dansby said. “He’s just got to go play ball and be himself and do what he knows he can do out on the field. He has all the talent in the world, man. That guy gave us hell every day at practice. He was killing us some days – keeping plays alive, hitting guys on the run, just being himself and playing the game the way he knows how to play the game.”
To be fair, Haden said his 2010 rookie season was a bit of a whirlwind and that it took him a full year to adjust to NFL life.
“I’m not trying to make excuses for anybody,” he said. “I’m just (explaining it) from my standpoint. Going from making zero dollars to making millions of dollars and you’re a 21-year-old kid – that threw me for a loop. I was having a ball.”
But then Haden snapped out of it.
“At the end of the day, you got to realize when you get to the NFL level, it’s a business.” he said. “You got people’s families that are depending on you. (Dansby has) got a family with kids and he’s looking at the man next to him (and thinking), ‘Hopefully you got my back.’ It’s a business, and you got to just take it that way and you got to know you got to be in there and you got to be 100 percent ready for it.”