BEREA — At 35, Willie McGinest has experienced just about everything in professional football. But he’s never seen the Patriots standing on the opposite sideline, like he will Sunday in Foxborough, Mass.
McGinest was the Patriots’ No. 4 overall pick in 1994 and spent the first 12 years of his career in New England before joining the Browns last year. The teams didn’t play last year.
“It’s going to be a little special to get to go back where you played for so long and see your friends, but at the end of the day this is a business trip and we’ve got to prepare and get ourselves ready to play,” he said Friday. “It can’t be a big reunion and party because I’m going back to New England. We’re there to win a ballgame.”
McGinest’s season debut last week followed preseason back surgery to repair a bulging disk. He was credited with three tackles, but his impact was greater. He helps get everyone in the right position and is almost immovable against the run.
“He certainly gave them a presence there on the edge like he always does, like we know he can,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said.
McGinest talks to members of the Patriots all the time, including this week.
“Willie was like the godfather of this locker room for a long time, and I hate to see him in another jersey,” New England quarterback Tom Brady said. “But nobody has as much respect as this team does for Willie and what he’s done and what he continues to do. When you see him play against Baltimore last week, it looks like he’s 25.
“He’s such a great guy and a great friend and I’m going to try to be as nice as I can this week so he doesn’t body slam me, which I’m sure he’s been looking forward to for a very long time.”
The Browns are trying to work Joshua Cribbs, already a special teams standout, into the offense more.
“We have a package and have some things for him,” offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski said. “He’s playing more receiver under more normal situations for us. The package will continue to grow. Josh is a playmaker.”
Cribbs caught a pass for 7 yards in the opener and has seen time in three-receiver formations. He ran an end-around for 11 yards in Week 2, and has run from the quarterback spot once in each of the last two games. Cribbs was a quarterback at Kent State and is itching for the chance to throw a pass. He sometimes works on his form in practice.
“It’s caught my eye,” Chudzinski joked.
Punter Dave Zastudil (back) was listed as questionable. He’s missed three of the four games but returned to full practice this week. “It’s still day to day,” he said. “I’m doing everything possible to be ready Sunday.”
With veteran Scott Player performing well the last two games, the Browns can afford to wait until Zastudil is 100 percent.
Guard Eric Steinbach (neck stinger) and defensive end Orpheus Roye (knee) are questionable and expected to play. Tight end Kellen Winslow (shoulder), McGinest (back) and linebacker Antwan Peek (foot) are probable, as is kicker Phil Dawson, who was excused from practice for a personal reason.
Romeo Crennel was voted Motorola Coach of the Week for the 27-13 win over the Ravens. He beat out Atlanta’s Bobby Petrino and Arizona’s Ken Whisenhunt.
• Chudzinski said the Browns would probably make a decision on Ryan Tucker’s roster status today. Tucker is coming off a four-game steroids suspension and must be activated by Monday. Tucker said he’s been working exclusively at right tackle.
• Receiver Joe Jurevicius had tickets for Friday night’s Tribe game.
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