BEREA — Joshua Cribbs is one of a handful of Browns players who lives in Northeast Ohio year-round, so he understands what the start of training camp means to local fans.
“Everybody in Cleveland can’t wait until football season — and it’s finally here,” the two-time Pro Bowl kick returner said Saturday following practice. “The excitement level is off the charts already because of our draft picks.
“We’ve got a whole new running back (No. 3 overall pick Trent Richardson) and a whole new quarterback (No. 22 overall choice Brandon Weeden). Everybody wants to see how they’re going to do. So do we. We’re all excited about this season.”
Despite on-and-off rain throughout the morning, a crowd of 2,937 attended the Browns’ first public practice of the summer.
It was the largest training camp attendance in Berea since July 31, 2010, when an overflow crowd of 3,673 was on hand. That season ended with a 5-11 record and Eric Mangini being fired as Cleveland’s coach.
Since the Browns went 4-12 last year, Cribbs said the current team is “already at the bottom, so we’ve got nowhere to go but up.”
The Kent State graduate continued, “We’ve always been the underdog. Every team hates to lose to us, so they play timid when they go against us. They say we’re gonna be last in every category, but we’re a good team this year. We’ll see when the game comes on, and at the end of the day, we’re the winner.”
Cribbs is so excited about the new season that he reported to camp at 210 pounds, five less than the goal the team set for him — and 12 below his playing weight from one year ago.
The part-time wide receiver also plans on refocusing on his special teams duties, which include returning kickoffs and punts, and playing on both coverage units. He currently ranks seventh in NFL history with 10,534 return yards.
“I have no problem going to the Pro Bowl for covering kicks or punts, or returning,” said Cribbs, who owns a league-record eight kickoff returns for touchdowns. “I’ll still be effective when I get in the offense. I’ll still move the ball. But we need to create an impact on special teams. We didn’t really have that last year, and I’m gonna make sure we get that back.”
Defensive tackle Phil Taylor (left pectoral surgery), fullback Eddie Williams and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin were all placed on the active/physically unable to perform list (PUP), while tight end Evan Moore has been assigned to the active/non-football injury list.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur again refused to reveal why Williams, Rubin and Moore are on the shelf, but said Moore was hurt while preparing for training camp. The coach added that he expects Rubin and Moore back “real soon.”
Rubin ran sprints from sideline to sideline while the rest of the squad was practicing. The Plain Dealer reported his injury as a slight pelvic tear that required surgery six weeks ago.
• Cornerback Joe Haden (left big toe) was a bit gimpy throughout the two-hour workout, but explained that there was a good reason for it.
“Mo (Massaquoi) stepped on my toe in one-on-ones the first thing this morning,” a shoeless Haden said, smiling. “I mean, he stepped right on my big toe and didn’t think nothing of it. But don’t worry, I’m gonna be cool about it. I’m fine.”
• Wide receiver Carlton Mitchell (leg) and cornerback Trevin Wade (leg) did not practice, but Shurmur said they will “be out there soon.”
Weeden had another rocky day against Cleveland’s first-team defense. The Oklahoma State product was nearly intercepted at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Scott Fujita, badly underthrew Greg Little over the middle and completed a pass to Jordan Norwood well out of bounds.
Weeden’s worst toss of the 2¼-hour morning workout came when he threw across his body toward the end zone, but didn’t come close to reaching intended target Benjamin Watson. Safety T.J. Ward should have picked off the pass, but dropped it, forcing him to perform push-ups immediately after the football hit the ground.
• Defensive tackles Brian Schaefering and Scott Paxson worked with the starters in place of Rubin and Taylor, respectively.
• Second-year pro Eric Hagg remains ahead of Usama Young at free safety, while rookie Mitchell Schwartz supplanted Oniel Cousins as the top right tackle after one day.
• Massaquoi and Little served as Weeden’s wide receivers with Watson at tight end and Richardson in the backfield.
• Former NFL running back and current Southern University coach Stump Mitchell was a special visitor, along with members of the his staff with the Jaguars.
Forbes reported that Browns owner Randy Lerner will receive $920 million — below his $1 billion asking price — when he sells controlling interest in the franchise to Pilot Flying J Travel Centers owner Jimmy Haslam III.
Lerner, who watched practice from the sideline with team president Mike Holmgren, is expected to retain a 30 percent ownership share, according to the London Daily Mirror.
The late Al Lerner, Randy’s father, purchased the inactive franchise from the NFL in 1998 for $530 million.
• The second annual Cleveland Browns Motorcycle Rally attracted 325 participants, up from approximately 200 last year. Proceeds benefit the Greater Cleveland Fisher House and the Cleveland Browns Foundation.
Holmgren led the bikers on their route from Aurora Road in Cleveland to the team headquarters, where they were treated to a free meal and private afternoon walkthrough.
“It’s a cliché to say we’re overlooked, but based on our 4-12 record, rightfully so. We know we’re a much better team, and we want to prove that.” — Browns safety T.J. Ward.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.