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As his time in Cleveland draws to a close, Josh Cribbs seeks to redeem himself in Pittsburgh

Dec 27, 2012 -- 6:00am


By Tony Grossi

The Morning Kickoff …

Block the man: This week’s lesson in NFL tweeting comes to us from Josh Cribbs.

Lesson: Never read or respond to your Twitter account while on the team bus after a brutal loss in which you tried to catch a punt with your face mask.

After suffering a 34-12 defeat to Denver – and fumbling a punt that led to one of Denver’s scores – Cribbs dialed up his Twitter account on his IPhone waiting for the bus to depart to the airport.

Here are some of the tweets he read:

“why does Benjamin get touchdowns and you get fumbles?”

“Anyone else excited @JoshCribbs16 will be gone next year? It’s time for @TravisBenjamin3!”

“Josh Cribbs … can’t wait for you to be a FA. #worthless”

“good riddance to josh cribbs over-rated never was”

There were vile and offensive tweets, too, from among his 129,137 followers. At some point, Cribbs snapped.

He tweeted: “I see all the negativity on twitter after I gave my life to this (expletive). So 2 all u who are against me (expletive) all y’all! I’m still gonna do me!”

Cribbs quickly deleted the tweet and then posted another. “We battle like gladiators on the field every week & we put our all out there, so 2 come off the field to the bs ppl put on twitter smh.”

I asked Cribbs on Wednesday, “Is it just impossible for you not to respond?”

“It’s not impossible not to respond, but … I play the game with so much passion, if you say what are my characteristics in this game, passionless is not one of them, not being tough is not one of them. I play this game with my heart and soul and a lot of the guys on the team play the same way. A lot of people see football for us as a game, but this is not just a game. We work our whole life for this moment. This is my whole way of life. Everything in my whole life is football. I was very frustrated. That comment I made was out of frustration.”

My suggestion: Don’t respond, just block. I used to respond to offensive tweets but now I just block them. It’s a therapeutic experience to block an obnoxious follower. I recommend it.

Cribbs’ final days: Cribbs is the most frustrated player in the Browns’ locker room. I don’t believe it’s just because his days as a Browns player are numbered – probably down to four.

His contract is up and CEO Joe Banner is not wont to rewarding soon-to-be 30-year-old players with new deals. When Banner was president of the Eagles, he wouldn’t blink an eye while dispatching players more popular in Philadelphia than Cribbs has been in Cleveland. Hence, Banner’s nickname: Dr. No. “No new deal for you.”

“I want my career to end here in Cleveland,” Cribbs said. “I have a lot in the tank. I hate the fact we rebuild every year. We have to teach guys to play special teams. Every year’s a constant rebuilding process. Every year. Regime constantly happening. I’m not on the field by myself. It’s not a good recipe for successful football.”

Beyond his personal contract situation, Cribbs is frustrated as much as any Browns fan. He is tired of losing, tired of not being relevant in the NFL, tired of rebooting every two years.

“When are we not in a rebuilding process?” he said. “You talk about how many quarterbacks we’ve been through and coaches since I’ve been here …”

Cribbs made the roster as an undrafted free agent from Kent State in 2005. At the time, Romeo Crennel was in his first training camp as Browns head coach. Phil Savage was general manager. Trent Dilfer was the quarterback to start the season that year.

Since then, Cribbs has seen the quarterback job given to Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Colt McCoy, Brandon Weeden and now … perhaps somebody else. His coaches have been Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur and now … somebody else.

While Browns fans lament the constant turnover, Cribbs has played through it. And no player in that time has left more of himself on the field than Cribbs.

“Lot of people don’t know nuthin’ about football and keep calling this a game,” Cribbs said. It’s more than a game to me. This is a way of life. It’s a culture. It means everything to me.”

On to Pittsburgh: No player on the Browns appreciates the fans’ hatred for Pittsburgh’s dominance like Cribbs. And none has done more in his time to stem that Steelers’ dominance.

He had career highs of seven receptions and 91 yards in a 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh in Game 16 in 2011. He had a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a loss in Pittsburgh in 2009, and Wildcat-rushed for a career-high 87 yards in a win in the rematch. He had has first completed pass out of the Wildcat in a 2008 game against Pittsburgh. He had two long kickoff returns against the Steelers in 2007, including a touchdown of 100 yards.

Three of Cribbs’ 11 career touchdown returns have come against Pittsburgh – the most against any team.

“It’s an opportunity,” Cribbs said of the season-ender at Pittsburgh. “Because all this has been brought to my attention, I don’t think I can go any harder than I already go. I play so hard. I hate the way I play because after the game I feel so beat up. It’s not in me to duck or save my body a little bit. I’m in the business of contact. That’s what I’m about.

“Maybe I can redeem myself with fans with a big game in Pittsburgh.”

Yes, that would do it.

s the Tom Heckert-Shurmur era will suffer a similar ending.Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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