November 23, 2014

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Browns notes: Joshua Cribbs weighs in on replacement refs

BEREA — Browns wide receiver Joshua Cribbs pulled no punches Tuesday when he was asked about the NFL’s replacement officials.

Cribbs

The two-time Pro Bowl kick returner said “the integrity of the game is now in question” after the controversial finish to the Seattle/Green Bay game on Monday Night Football.

“They ask us to be professional and uphold the integrity of the NFL — and I think it should go both ways,” Cribbs said following practice. “I feel sorry for them (replacement officials). It’s really tough for them to come in and expect them to know all of the rules. It’s unfortunate. Really unfortunate.”

The Seahawks stole a 14-12 win when wide receiver Golden Tate committed obvious pass interference before catching the game-winning touchdown pass from Russell Wilson in the end zone.

The replacement officials missed the fact that Packers safety M.D. Jennings first intercepted the ball, brought it to his chest with both hands, and landed in the end zone. Tate then wrapped his arms around the football, which one official ruled as simultaneous possession and a TD.

“Everyone saw that it wasn’t caught at the same time. It wasn’t a tie. It was an interception,” Cribbs said. “(Jennings) had it the whole way.

“I disagree with the call last night. A lot of people do. That’s why it’s on ESPN and everywhere. It was a bad call.”

The eighth-year pro went even further when asked about the NFL office’s statement, which supported the on-field call and its subsequent replay review.

“That’s because you’ve got to have the back of your officials, they work for the league,” said Cribbs, whose eight career kickoff return touchdowns are an NFL record. “It’s just like I have the backs of my guys here that I fight with, so they must have their back. Everyone knows that.

“Like I said, who polices the NFL? Who is holding them accountable for our integrity? It’s just very unfortunate.”

Cribbs added that he has seen — and heard — just how unqualified the replacement officials are during Cleveland’s first three regular season games.

“A lot of times we have to scream and yell the rules to the refs to reinforce the rules,” the Kent State graduate said. “It’s something we have to deal with. Like I said, like coach said, we do have to beat that team and the refs, as well.”

Injury update

Browns wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (left hamstring) and tight end Alex Smith (concussion) did not practice, putting their availability in great doubt for Thursday Night Football in Baltimore. The game at M&T Bank Stadium kicks off at 8:20 p.m.

“Hopefully this will go away real fast and I can continue to put together a good season,” Massaquoi said. “If I can play, I will.”

If Massaquoi can’t go, wide receiver Jordan Norwood will be active for the first time this year. Smith sat out Cleveland’s 24-14 loss to Buffalo in Week 3 after being hurt in Cincinnati on Sept. 16.

Linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs, oblique), safety Ray “Bubba” Ventrone (left thumb surgery), cornerback Sheldon Brown (chest), and Cribbs (knee) were limited.

Johnson said he doesn’t know if he will make his NFL debut against the Ravens, but his full uniform and several pairs of shoes were packed in a travel bag by a locker room assistant.

Defensive end Frostee Rucker (wrist), guard Jason Pinkston (ankle), long snapper Christian Yount (right shoulder), and running back Trent Richardson (left knee surgery) were full participants.

For the Ravens, cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (knee), and tackle Jah Reid (calf) were limited.

Quick turnaround

The Ravens will be playing their fourth game in 18 days, while the Browns will be playing their fourth in 19 days to start the season.

According to Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas, playing on prime-time television is an honor, but it also takes a physical toll.

“Typically, you’re barely starting to feel better from the last game on a Thursday and you’re still sore,” the five-time Pro Bowl selection said. “But we’ve got to play a tough team on the road in Baltimore. It’s far from the easiest thing you go through in the NFL.”

Extra points

  • Incoming Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III, team president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert all were on the field for the start of practice.
  • WKYC-TV 3 won the local bidding war to simulcast NFL Network’s coverage of the Cleveland/Baltimore game. Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock will be behind the mic.
  • The Browns’ home games against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are sold out, while less than 1,000 tickets are available for games against San Diego and Baltimore.

Quote of the day

“I’ve got a lot of thoughts, no comments. I didn’t see the whole game. We were here working and I just happened to catch the end of it. I’ve got no comments on it.” — Browns coach Pat Shurmur on the officiating in the Seahawks/Packers game.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.