April 21, 2014

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Browns notes: Cribbs’ star on the rise on special teams

CLEVELAND — Joshua Cribbs remains on track to win the punt returner job after the preseason opener Saturday night vs. the Chiefs.
Cribbs, who’s also the kickoff returner, the gunner on punt coverage and a member of the kickoff coverage, fielded his one punt cleanly, returning it 5 yards. While catching the ball is the most important part of the job, he violated the cardinal rule of punt returning by fielding the ball inside the
10-yard line, at the 7. Special teams coordinator Ted Daisher met him on the sideline to discuss his choice.
If Cribbs can hang onto the job — and the ball — it’ll make life easier for coach Romeo Crennel by saving him a roster spot.
“He’s getting more comfortable all the time back there,” Crennel said recently. “Last year he didn’t look very comfortable, but this year he looks a lot more comfortable.”
Cribbs filled in for the departed Dennis Northcutt sparingly last year, retuning five for 46 yards, a 9.2 average. His long was 34 yards.
“It’s a tough transition for me, just because of how much I want to impact special teams,” Cribbs said. “Taking both return jobs I know they would more than likely have to limit my contributions on special teams and might have to take me off kickoff coverage and gunner. I don’t want to do that.”
That wasn’t an issue Saturday, as Cribbs served as the gunner on punt coverage and a member of the kickoff coverage. He also returned two kickoffs for 54 yards.
But if Cribbs ever assumes a larger role as a receiver, Crennel would certainly have to limit his time on special teams.
“I know everybody wants me to (return punts), because they want the ball in my hands,” Cribbs said. “I’ll do whatever to help the team.”
Seventh-round draft pick Syndric Steptoe and fifth-round pick Brandon McDonald are competing with Cribbs for the punt return job. Crennel has been a close observer of the drills during camp, even yelling and throwing paper at the guys trying to catch the ball.
“It’s actually funny,” Cribbs said. “He really wants me to be back there, so he does everything he can to test me to make sure he can sleep good at night knowing that I’m back there and won’t fumble or muff the ball.”

Time is Wright

Running back Jason Wright lined up with the second team Saturday, 10 days after suffering a concussion picking up a blitz in practice.
“I thought I was fine and just got a little dizzy,” Wright said. “I tried to play and be the tough guy. Then I got all the symptoms and said, ‘Oh, man, I think something’s wrong.’ It wasn’t scary because (the trainers) explained to me everything that was happening and they took really good care of me.”
Wright, a double major in psychology and pre-medicine at Northwestern, missed two days of practice. There’s been a lot of discussion recently about the NFL’s treatment of concussions, but Wright said he wasn’t worried he was brought back too soon.
“They were very precautionary,” he said. “I wanted to come back way sooner than they let me. They dragged it out. They take it very, very seriously.
“I didn’t really have to think about it, because they thought of it for me.”

Lineup notes

Quarterback Charlie Frye won the coin flip and started.
Antwan Peek started in place of Willie McGinest (back surgery) at outside linebacker.
Rookie Eric Wright started for veteran Kenny Wright (groin) at cornerback and played into the second quarter. Lennie Friedman replaced Eric Steinbach (knee) at left guard.
Shaun Smith started at defensive end for Orpheus Roye (knee surgery).
Second-year quarterback Brodie Croyle started for the Chiefs.

Peek performance

Peek made a good first impression in his Browns debut. He sacked Croyle, forcing a fumble that was recovered by the Chiefs, and stopped running back Michael Bennett for a 2-yard loss on a pitchout.
Peek’s specialty is rushing the passer, but he’ll need to help against the run in McGinest’s absence. He’s off to a good start.

Extra points

The stadium’s turf was replaced following the Kenny Chesney concert July 14. Missing were a logo at midfield and any writing in the end zones.
Tight end Kellen Winslow was the first Brown in full uniform to take the field, about 90 minutes before kickoff.
The announced number of tickets distributed for Saturday’s exhibition at Cleveland Browns Stadium was 70,067.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7136 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.