The Cleveland Browns added 11 players to the roster through the 2012 NFL Draft and several more through free agency.
In the eyes of one of the most-tenured Browns, wide receiver
“I think we look pretty good,” Cribbs said following a recent organized team activity session. “There are a lot of questions about our rookies and where they stand. I think they’re grasping the playbook. They’re getting it down pat.
“There’s a lot of competition out here. Guys are accepting their roles and they’re doing what they have to do to make us have a better football team, no matter if they have to take a backseat, no matter if they have to play a different role, myself included. We look good out there and we’ve got a lot of time.”
Cribbs has been impacted by the competition, as several of the younger players have also dropped back to return kickoffs during the OTAs and minicamp practices.
“We have a lot of good returners that are right up my back pushing me out the door,” Cribbs said with a smile. “That’s how I have to look at it though, like I did to the guys in front of me, there’s always going to be a young guy who’s faster and who makes less. I have to prove myself all over again, why I’m worth it and play all of the positions at a high level, try to make sure if I am not there, then there is a huge void they have to fill. They have to put five guys in my position just to cover me, so I have to make myself more useful to the football team.”
After playing quarterback at nearby Kent State University from 2001-04, Cribbs had to first prove himself on special teams before making the team as an undrafted free agent in 2005. The record-setting quarterback in college quickly turned into a record-setting kick returner in the NFL.
He currently holds the NFL record with eight kickoff return touchdowns.
“It is about the young guys, especially special teams,” Cribbs said of OTAs and minicamps. “That is how I made it and unfortunately, everyone can’t make the football team and the only way the young guys are going to make the team is special teams. That’s the only way. It’s been true since I have been here and it’s the way it works. Do whatever you can to make the football team and be noticed and you’ll standout.”
Last fall, Cribbs returned 39 kickoffs for 974 yards, despite rules changes prior to the 2011 regular season. The kickoffs were moved up from the 30-yard line to the 35, but even with more touchbacks around the league, Cribbs still finished with his sixth season of at least 950 yards on kickoff returns.
In addition to his productivity on special teams, Cribbs had a career year as a wide receiver in 2011. He caught 41 passes for 518 yards and tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions.
For his career, Cribbs has 100 receptions for 1,098 yards and seven touchdowns. Heading into 2012, he does not plan on slowing down.
“I’m going to catch the ball when it’s thrown to me,” Cribbs said. “I’m excited about getting the ball in my hands and doing something with it. I’m still proving to the naysayers about catching the football, but I have no problem proving everybody wrong.”