BEREA — The battle for field position on kickoffs will be critical Sunday when the Browns play on the road against the Raiders.
Not only do the clubs traditionally play close games against each other, they feature two of the game’s top special teamers.
Cleveland’s Joshua Cribbs ranks second in the NFL in kickoff return average at 31.2 yards, while Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski leads the league with seven touchbacks.
Much like the old baseball adage “hit it where they ain’t,” the Raiders will try to “kick it where he can’t (return it).”
“If he kicks it in the end zone, then we get it at the 20,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said Thursday. “You can’t do anything else about it, unless you want to try and run it out of the end zone — and that’s not a good percentage move.”
Despite Cribbs’ knack for turning seemingly hopeless situations into big gains, Crennel said he does not want him running kickoffs out of the end zone, even if Janikowski only boots the ball a couple of yards deep.
“Generally, the odds are not in your favor,” the coach explained. “Take the ball at the 20 and let your offense go out there and operate. Josh is going to be on the goal line and should always know where it is.”
But there are exceptions to that rule, as Cribbs noted.
The Browns have had great success on runbacks under former special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg and present boss Ted Daisher, giving their returners a little leeway for improvisation.
“There is always a possibility of a return,” Cribbs said. “You have to look for the breakdowns. We have a great kickoff return unit.”
In light of New England’s Ellis Hobbs recently making a 108-yard kickoff return, Crennel was asked if he would yell at Cribbs if he equaled that feat by disobeying his order.
“No,” Crennel said, laughing. “I’d high five him.
“He’s got a good combination. He’s tough-minded, has some speed and size, has got some instincts. All those together make him a pretty good returner.”
Upon further review
Additional research by the NFL revealed that the Browns became the first team ever to have a quarterback throw for five touchdowns (Derek Anderson) and a running back gain 200 yards (Jamal Lewis) in their 51-45 win over the Bengals on Sunday.
• Anderson and Lewis were chosen the FedEx Air and Ground Players of the Week in fan voting on NFL.com.
• The aforementioned Cleveland/Cincinnati game also tied for the ninth highest-scoring game in NFL history at 96 points. The only higher scoring matchup in the last 20 years came on Nov. 28, 2004 when the Bengals beat the Browns 58-45 in a 103-pointer in the Queen City.
Great Gazoo 2
Punter Scott Player’s helmet, which features a single-bar facemask, continues to be a big hit with his new teammates. Cornerback Daven Holly tried it on and looked positively ridiculous walking around the locker room in it.
Wide receiver Braylon Edwards promptly nicknamed Holly the “Great Gazoo” of Flintstones fame — he was a dead ringer for the alien — and took multiple pictures of him on his camera phone.
“I’m sending these to the league office,” Edwards joked. “That’s a clear uniform violation.”
Player was signed to temporarily replace Dave Zastudil, whose strained back flared up late in the Browns’ victory over Cincinnati. All indications are that Zastudil will sit out at least one week in hopes of making a full recovery.
“I’m day to day, but I want to be fully healed the next time I punt,” the Bay Village native said. “It really affected me on my last kick Sunday because I knew I couldn’t explode into the ball.” Despite being in obvious pain, Zastudil averaged 43.0 yards on two attempts.
Hall of free
The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton will offer free admission to all fans age 62-and-older Wednesday. The HOF’s extended “Senior Citizen’s Day” hours are from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and include a number of complimentary health screenings. Free souvenirs, cake, coffee and tea will also be offered. Regular admission rates are $16 for adults and $10 for children.
Bill Macatee and Steve Beuerlein will call the Browns/Raiders game on CBS, which is the network’s only Week 3 offering not being televised in high definition (HDTV). The contest will be shown in the northern portions of Ohio, California and Nevada.
• This marks the third consecutive season Cleveland has visited Oakland. The Browns have won three straight in the series.
• The Raiders made up for Gerard Warren’s conference call no-show by having the always-colorful Warren Sapp take his place. Warren and running back Adimchinobe Echemandu are the only ex-Browns on Oakland’s roster.