BEREA — Browns players stepped into the voting booths Thursday to cast their ballots for the NFL Pro Bowl.
Actually, they sat down in a conference room inside the team headquarters, but their mission was the same — to reward the top players in the AFC with a trip to the Jan. 27 all-star game in Honolulu.
“It is exciting to vote for the first time, since one of every player’s goals is to make it to the Pro Bowl,” rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon said, breaking into a smile. “Hopefully, I can get a few votes myself. I might have to call some guys around the league and see what I can do about that.”
League-wide voting by players, coaching staffs and fans each count one-third toward determining the AFC and NFC rosters, which will be revealed on Dec. 26 at 7 p.m.
Cleveland’s offensive players were only permitted to cast votes for AFC defensive players, while the opposite was true for members of the Browns’ defense.
Kickers, punters and long snappers are responsible for the balloting at their positions.
“You don’t want to beg your colleagues, but you might make some calls to find out who they’re going for,” punter Reggie Hodges said.
“That’s why I know Phil Dawson has the votes from a few teams.”
Largely thanks to Hodges’ relentless campaigning, Dawson (120,620) finished second in the fan voting at kicker behind Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski (138,068). The 14th-year pro has never represented Cleveland at the game despite owning the NFL’s seventh-best career field goal percentage.
Dawson is also tied with Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham for the top mark in the league this season, with both making 26 of 27 field goal tries.
“Reggie has become a good friend and I owe a lot to him for all the hard work he’s put in, rallying around my cause, so to speak,” Dawson said. “The fan support around Cleveland also has been tremendous, like it always is.
“Hopefully, the rest of the voting will go my way because it would be very exciting to be selected.”
Two-time Pro Bowl selection Joshua Cribbs fared even better than Dawson, finishing as the AFC’s top vote-getter among special teams players with 127,848 — more than doubling runner-up Bryan Braman of Houston (63,731).
Additionally, Cribbs finished second at kick returner (135,101), less than 10,000 votes behind Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones (143,047).
“I guess I’m not washed up like they say,” said Cribbs, who ranks third in the NFL in punt return average and is seventh in kickoff return average. “I love the support from the fans, and it just lets me know that hard work doesn’t go unnoticed, especially in this blue-collar town. It means a lot to me knowing they think I belong in the Pro Bowl.”
Defensive captain D’Qwell Jackson, who leads the Browns in tackles, finished second at inside linebacker (150,442) to New England’s Jerod Mayo (323,411).
Five-time Pro Bowl honoree Joe Thomas placed fourth at tackle (175,915), while rookie Trent Richardson received the most fan votes of any Cleveland player and was fifth at running back (240,033).
Based on the comments of coaches and players around the league, Thomas and Cribbs are considered the most likely Browns to hear their names called next week.
“It means a lot just to be in that (mix), just to be considered and not to be viewed as an average guy,” Cribbs said. “Just to be part of the top anything in the NFL is a good thing.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.