Josh Cribbs assures he’s far from finished in the NFL.
“I’ve got a lot, and you’re going to see it this Sunday,” the Indianapolis Colts’ new kick returner said Wednesday. “I’m anxious.
“I’m just excited about the people I have to work with. They’re just excited to have me, and I’m feeding off of their energy to give (quarterback Andrew) Luck some good field position. I have the opportunity to help him shine. To be a catalyst like that, I’m just ecstatic.”
If the Colts are getting a 31-year-old Cribbs of old, when he made three Pro Bowls with the Cleveland Browns, he’s one of the most dynamic kick returners in the game with 11 career touchdown returns, including an NFL-record eight on kickoffs.
If Cribbs has been available all season because he’s not the same player due to injuries, that should be evident rather quickly. Cribbs played six games last season for the New York Jets before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Before that, he was cut at the end of 2013 preseason by Oakland due to lingering knee issues stemming from an offseason arthroscopic surgery.
“God willing and the creek don’t rise, his legs don’t give out on him, he’ll probably be returning kicks for us,” head coach Chuck Pagano said. “We’ll see.”
Cribbs, of course, is supremely confident. The Colts must have shared that optimism or they wouldn’t have signed him.
“He’s got 9,000 returns,” Pagano overstated of Cribbs’ 609-return, 12,755-yard resume. “He’s got great vision. The good Lord blessed him with great football talent, toughness, instincts, all the things necessary to do what he’s done in the past in this league and play at a very high level.”
Two religious references in a row? It sounds like Pagano is relying on a higher power and not just Cribbs’ confidence that the 10th-year pro will deliver.
Asked if he envisions Cribbs needing some time to shake off the rust, the coach said of readiness, “Hopefully sooner than later.”
This much is obvious, Cribbs is thrilled to be reunited with some old Browns teammates in running back Trent Richardson, linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, safety Mike Adams and special assistant to the head coach Rob Chudzinski.
“They smell like playoffs,” Cribbs said of the Colts. “They smell like the Super Bowl. It’s just awesome to be in a locker room with a bunch of guys that just want it as bad as they do.”
Richardson told the returner/wide receiver he would like his new team.
“That it’s a place of winners,” Cribbs said. “You come here to rejuvenate your career, to add to something.”
Cribbs was so eager to get to Indianapolis, he drove from Cleveland on Tuesday night when flight plans didn’t pan out. When he worked out for the team a week earlier, his car broke down. When he returned, he was notified the car had been fixed.
“I was like that’s nothing but God right there,” Cribbs said. “It was confirmation that I’m supposed to be (here).”
Yet another religious reference, that he’s heaven sent?
If there’s another concern about Cribbs in addition to his age and health, it’s 26 career lost fumbles.
The Colts (6-4) host Jacksonville (1-9) Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium. Cribbs says he will be ready to make a splash.
“My thing more than anything is kickoff return,” he said. “We just were timing up those wedges (in practice). Those guys are already awesome. I’m finding myself not having to teach them a lot, little corrections here and there. They’re selling me what they see.
“We’re all getting on one accord. It’s not going to be like the preseason on Sunday. It’s going to be like we’ve been together for years and that’s how it should be.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.