Josh Cribbs Sets Another Goal

Achieving the Pro Bowl last season just left the Browns special teams wunderkind wanting more. Marty Gitlin spoke with the Browns ace return man during a recent mini-camp...

At one time, Josh Cribbs was satisfied with being among the most feared special teams players in the NFL.

Not anymore.

Yeah, Cribbs earned a trip to the Pro Bowl in 2007 as a kickoff and punt returner. He also spearheaded one of the premier coverage units in the NFL and was seemingly in on every tackle.

But that's not enough. Cribbs yearns to maximize his talent, which means contributing as an every-down player - most likely as a wideout, slot receiver or pass catching threat out of the backfield.

When Josh Cribbs reaches one goal, he reaches for another. And another. And another. It's no wonder his ultimate goal is to stand on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and accept his admission.

"I have to rededicate myself every year," says Cribbs. "When I came out here as a rookie, I was just trying to make the football team. Then I raised the bar for myself higher and higher. I had a good season last year, but I have to do that again. In the NFL it's what have you done for me lately, not what did you do for me last year."

That was one heck of a last year. Cribbs' kickoff return average of 30.7 yards led the NFL and his 1,809 total kickoff return yardage was second in league history. He sprinted for three touchdowns, including two on kickoff returns and another on a punt return. He also paced the team with 23 special teams tackles.

But Cribbs actually regressed as a offensive contributor. He caught just three passes in 2008 after snagging 10 the year before. Browns coach Romeo Crennel has expressed an interest in finding ways to get Cribbs the ball more often in the open field. Plays have been added that are designed to utilize his speed and elusiveness in the offensive scheme.

All of which means little until Cribbs proves he can get open and hang on to the ball, particularly over the middle when defensive backs are racing over to nail him with force. That's what Crennel is waiting to see.

"We have to get him to training camp and get the pads on and have him go over the middle when he knows he's going to get hit," Crennel explains. "If he hangs on to it, then if he runs the proper routes at the proper depth and shows the discipline involved in that position, he can make a contribution."

There are those who believe Cribbs will never be anything more than a darn good special teams player. The critics, the doomsayers, provide motivation.

"I've been proving people wrong my whole life," says the former Kent State quarterback. "People said I couldn't play in the NFL and I proved I could do it. That's what I live for. I live for new challenges. Now that it has been publicly stated that (the rigors of football) will wear me thin, I'm going to show them. I'm young. I still have a lot left to give to this sport.

"Right now, I'm not going to be satisfied until I reach my ultimate goals because I feel that when I reach those goals, my team will have done something great. I want to be a future Hall of Famer or something like that. I want to raise the limits for myself. I made the Pro Bowl, but I can't sit back and be complacent. I'm trying to be the guy, not just a guy in there."

Cribbs was the guy at Kent State, greatly because he started at quarterback. He desires no more to take snaps from center, but he does understand that the experience of playing that position proved valuable in his later football life.

"I was at the helm playing quarterback and that was a learning process for me," he says. "For me, playing quarterback was about leadership and how I could use that leadership playing on special teams. I don't have to be just another guy on this team. I'm a leader on this team. They're going to try to make me a captain this year. Now my voice will be heard."

Captain or not, Cribbs is never the kind of guy whose voice isn't heard. Now he wants his talents to be displayed on every down. With receivers such as Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Donte Stallworth and Joe Jurevicius as teammates, it likely won't happen in 2008.

But when Josh Cribbs sets a goal for himself, don't believe it will go unachieved for too long.

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