Cribbs back at Browns camp, eager to get the ball

Josh Cribbs is confident he will make plays for the Cleveland

Browns. As usual, he’s not certain when or how.

The dynamic kick returner caught some passes, lined up in the

backfield a bit, and even completed a pass in his return to

practice Friday after missing three days of team drills with a left

leg strain.

”My leg feels fine,” Cribbs said. ”I needed to get out there

for conditioning, just to get back in the groove.”

The Browns have long sought to get Cribbs into their offensive

flow, using his breakaway ability in a variety of roles out of the

backfield or at wide receiver. A quarterback in college, Cribbs was

a key part of a wildcat formation often employed last season by

Eric Mangini, fired as coach after a 5-11 finish.

New coach Pat Shurmur won’t utilize the wildcat much, but

intends to get the ball to Cribbs in other ways.

”He is not a big fan of the wildcat, but he is a big fan of

giving me the football,” Cribbs said. ”Every way he can, out of

the pocket. I don’t know if you saw me at quarterback when Colt

(McCoy) pitched the ball to me, but he is going to do everything he

can to put the ball in the hands of guys that can make plays.”

Shurmur said essentially the same thing.

”He’s not going to be limited,” Shurmur said. ”Cribbs is a

fantastic player and we’re going to try and put him in position to

make plays – however we can do it.

”There are some routes I think he runs very well. I think he’s

progressing as a receiver.”

Rules changes have moved kickers up 5 yards, but Shurmur doesn’t

think it will hinder the star returner.

”There’ll be some strategy to it,” Shurmur predicted. ”At

times, the ball is going to get popped up in the air as high as you

can, then try and get the coverage down and swarm the returner. If

situations dictate that returner is out of this world, you don’t

want him to touch it, and you have a kicker that can bang it

through the end zone, then you’re not going to let him touch

it.”

Cribbs was coy about his opinion on the rule change.

”I have a lot of thoughts on that, but I can’t define it

because I’d probably get in trouble,” he said.

Cribbs believes new special teams coordinator Chris Tabor is

ahead of the game in making adjustments.

”Tabor is a really good scheme artist,” he said. ”He had

(Devin) Hester in Chicago. He is doing a great job at teaching the

guys up front on how to block deep sets, to get their hips turned

around, fundamental things that are going to make our special teams

unit a great team.”

Shurmur was pleased by the strong play Friday of first-round

pick Phil Taylor, the 338-pound defensive lineman.

”He’s a giant,” Shurmur said. ”When you have a big force in

the middle, that makes it difficult to run between the tackles. You

start eliminating options. He held up well.”

Defense dominated despite cornerback Joe Haden not practicing

because of a tight hamstring and rookie lineman Jabari Fletcher

being carted off with a sprained right knee.

Notes: A group of NFL officials is spending time at camp to

explain the rules. They showed an NFL-made video of illegal hits

and emphasized that rules are not to limit players, but help them.

… A ”Family Day” practice Saturday open to the public at

Cleveland Browns Stadium will sometimes resemble game situations

along with serving as an ordinary workout, Shurmur said. … There

is no timetable for WR Mohamed Massaquoi (right foot) to start

practicing, but plans are for RB Montario Hardesty, recovering from

knee surgery, to have some off days during camp to avoid setbacks.

… P Richmond McGee, signed after Reggie Hodges tore his Achilles

tendon, is working out as a holder for Phil Dawson.