August 27, 2014

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Hawaii calling: Browns end Pro Bowl drought as Cribbs, Edwards selected

BEREA — Joshua Cribbs and Braylon Edwards have never been to Hawaii, but they won’t have to wait much longer for their first luau.
The NFL made the reservations Tuesday.
Cribbs, a kick returner, and Edwards, a receiver, were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster, ending a five-year drought for the Browns. They will make their first appearances in the NFL’s all-star game in Honolulu on Feb. 10.
Cribbs was the only returner selected, while Edwards is a reserve behind starters Randy Moss (New England) and Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis).
“My wife and child are really excited about going,” said Cribbs, who was joined at the news conference by wife Maria and daughter Kimorah, 4. “It’s going to be a great time.”
“I dreamed this and it actually happened,” Edwards said.
The last Brown to earn the honor was linebacker Jamir Miller following the 2001 season. It’s no coincidence that the franchise’s return to the Pro Bowl coincides with its return to playoff contention. Wins and big stats are the recipe for Pro Bowl recognition.
The Browns are 9-5 and need a win Sunday at Cincinnati to clinch a playoff berth. This is the team’s first winning season since 2002 (9-7) and only the second since it returned in 1999.
“They both deserved this honor,” general manager Phil Savage said. “We’re excited about our future. Winning brings attention.”
Four Browns were named as first alternates: quarterback Derek Anderson, left guard Eric Steinbach, rookie left tackle Joe Thomas and tight end Kellen Winslow. Fullback Lawrence Vickers was named second alternate and kicker Phil Dawson was third alternate.
New England’s Tom Brady is the starter at quarterback, and Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger the reserves. San Diego’s Antonio Gates (starter) and Kansas City’s Tony Gonzalez (reserve) are the tight ends; New England’s Matt Light (starter), Buffalo’s Jason Peters (starter) and Baltimore’s Jonathan Ogden (reserve) the tackles; and Pittsburgh’s Alan Faneca (starter), New England’s Logan Mankins (starter) and San Diego’s Kris Dielman (reserve) the guards.
Cribbs and Steinbach led their positions after fan voting, which made up a third of the selection process. Voting by coaches and players accounted for the other two-thirds.
“The Pro Bowl is somewhat political,” Cribbs said. “Because we’re having success around here, we’ve been getting the publicity we deserve.”
Edwards and Cribbs joined the Browns in 2005, but did so from opposite directions. Edwards was the third overall pick out of Michigan; Cribbs was an undrafted free agent out of Kent State who was switched from quarterback to special teamer/receiver.
Cribbs made an immediate impact as a kickoff returner and has developed into one of the best all-around special teamers in the league. He leads the league with a 30.9-yard average and 1,637 yards on kickoff returns, and his 10.1 punt return average ranks seventh.
“I have a story to tell, not being drafted, switching positions, learning something I’d never done,” he said.
Cribbs has been talking about making the Pro Bowl since last year. He was so concerned about missing it this season that he asked someone in the Kent State athletic department to ask all the Golden Flashes in the NFL to vote for him.
Steelers linebacker James Harrison and Gates, both Kent products, also made the AFC roster.
“You don’t have to go to USC or Oklahoma to become an impact player in the NFL,” Cribbs said.
While Cribbs’ rise to the Pro Bowl was unexpected, Edwards’ selection matches his pedigree. His father, Stan, was an NFL player and Edwards was a star at Michigan. He overcame a torn knee ligament as a rookie and a perceived attitude problem last year to become an elite receiver this year.
He leads the team with 1,170 yards receiving and 13 touchdowns and ranks second with 69 receptions. He is fifth in the NFL in yardage and third in touchdowns.
“It feels good because I went all season with a different attitude, different approach,” said Edwards, the first Cleveland receiver selected for the Pro Bowl since Webster Slaughter in 1990. “I wanted to come off different. To say it and everyone say, ‘Yeah, right,’ to my face, then actually to back it up and do it, I’m proud of myself.”
Cribbs and Edwards deflected praise to their teammates and promised to shift their attention back to the Bengals.
“Making the Pro Bowl is the greatest individual accomplishment you can get in the NFL,” Cribbs said. “After today I’ll put all my concentration on Cincinnati.”
“I’m worried about scouting Cincinnati and what they’ve done differently,” Edwards said. “I don’t have time to worry about the Pro Bowl.”
They’ll have plenty of time to think about their accomplishment on the flight to Hawaii.
Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7135 or spetrak@chroniclet.com.