BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Bored and killing time during the NFL lockout, Browns cornerback Joe Haden was wandering around a local shopping mall when he decided to see if some friends wanted to meet for lunch.
So, he logged into his Twitter account and Haden told his followers - any of the 50,000 who could make it - to meet him at a sushi restaurant. "We took over the whole place," Haden said Monday. And, he picked up the tab. "Pretty hefty," Haden said without divulging the bill.
"I just wanted to give back to the fans." Not bad for a guy who prefers taking things away. Haden, who intercepted a team-high six passes as a rookie for Cleveland last year, has much bigger plans for his second NFL season. The former first-round pick whose Florida teammates nicknamed "Rock Star" because of his flamboyance and outgoing personality, has his sights on becoming one of the league's elite cornerbacks - maybe even the best one.
"I just want to lock down one side of the field," he said while cooling down under a tent following another hazy-and-humid practice. "That's what I came into the league trying to do. My goal is just to be one of the best corners in the league." He's well on his way, and as Haden works to improve, he's building a loyal legion of Browns fans, who have quickly embraced him as one of their favorites. Haden has become a man of the people.
"Who, Mr. Cleveland?" Browns tight end Evan Moore joked when asked about Haden. "Whenever I opened any Cleveland website this winter, he was on the front of it." Sure enough, Haden seemed to be all over town during the offseason.
An avid basketball fan, Haden, who set high school passing records as a quarterback and played guard on a state title-winning hoop team in Maryland, attended several Cavaliers games this winter. But Haden didn't just go to the NBA games, he went dressed from head to sneaker in the Cavaliers' wine-and-gold uniforms. For one game, he dressed like Cavs guard Baron Davis, rounding out his look with Davis' trademark headband and high socks.
For another game, he mimicked Cavs forward Anderson Varejao, even wearing a wig to replicate the Brazilian players' frizzy locks. This spring, Haden went to a Cleveland Indians home game dressed like relief pitcher Tony Sipp and sat in the bleachers, where he posed for photos with fans.
It's Haden's way of showing his gratitude. He loves Cleveland, and Cleveland loves him back. "They just love how I'm showing love for the city," Haden said of the fan reaction. "I could be in the house, just hanging out with my friends, but just going out there and showing them that I really appreciated them, that shows a lot." It's nothing new for Haden.
"Nobody tells him to do any of it," said close friend and business associate Sean Cabble, who met Haden at Florida. "Joe does it all on his own. He just loves people. He'd rather be around 10,000 people than be by himself. At school, he was the first one on the dance floor and the last one off. He doesn't stay still either. He's been that way his whole life."
Haden began last season as the club's nickel back, but it wasn't long before he was starting and making an impact all over the field. The 22-year-old Haden, who skipped his senior season in Gainesville to turn pro, made his first pick in Week 6 at Pittsburgh, returning it 62 yards to set up a field goal.
He became the first Browns rookie since 1959 to record an interception in three straight games, and Haden topped that a week later, becoming the first Cleveland player since 1968 to get an interception in four consecutive games. Haden's confidence grew by the week, and now that he's got a season under his belt, there's no telling what he can do.
"With his ball skills and cover skills, and just a lot of natural ability to play the ball in the air, he can play against the top receivers in the league," Moore said. "If he just keeps his mind right, the sky is the limit for Joe." It hasn't taken first-year Browns coach Pat Shurmur long to be impressed by Haden. In only the second week of training camp, Haden has already shown he's a unique talent. "He's a fun guy to be around because he loves to play and can run all day," Shurmur said.
"He's good in coverage and he challenges. He's a fun guy to coach for all those reasons. It's very rare, you look at a guy and it's hot and they're tired, and he's out here smiling, joking and playing fast." Haden's good, and he knows it. But while he oozes confidence, he isn't cocky. He's just one of the guys even if his physical gifts are special.
During the offseason, Haden, who has tattoos all over his body, got a new one on his right forearm of the NFL's shield logo, framed by "Dreams Come True" and "4 - 22 - 10." "That's when I got drafted," Haden said. And what's his NFL dream? "Win a Super Bowl," he said without hesitation. "And get me a ring. That's the goal" If he does, you can bet he's buying lunch.
Notes: Shurmur finally revealed that WR Mohamed Massaquoi has a bone injury in his left leg. Massaquoi showed up at camp with his leg in a cast, and Shurmur had been reluctant to offer any information. Massaquoi has been limited to the exercise bike and watching drills. Team president Mike Holmgren said in a radio interview that he believes Massaquoi will be back next week. ... Shurmur said DE Marcus Bernard needs to get in better condition. Benard came to camp 20 pounds over his listed playing weight of 256 so he could make the switch from linebacker in the 4-3 scheme. Apparently the coaches want him lighter. ... LB Chris Gocong left the morning practice with a stinger, but returned for the afternoon walkthrough. ... Rookie WR Greg Little had a few more drops, an ongoing problem for him