PRO BOWL 2008
Browns quarterback Derek Anderson chased kick returner Joshua Cribbs, also of the Browns, at AFC practice this week.
Browns crashing Pro Bowl
Cleveland Browns kick returner Joshua Cribbs is enjoying his time in Hawaii almost a little too much.
The first-time Pro Bowler and AFC teammate Kassim Osgood joked around with the media well after the conclusion of yesterday's practice at Kapolei High School.
The comedy show continued until somebody pointed out that the team bus was pulling out of the parking lot.
"Can you guys call us a cab?" Cribbs asked, laughing.
It hasn't been much fun for anyone within the Browns franchise since they returned to the NFL in 1999.
Former Browns owner Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore in '96, leaving Cleveland without a pro football team. Since the Browns' revival three years later, they had just one winning season prior to this year and were 19-45 between '03 and '06.
It's been so bad that since the Browns returned to Cleveland, only Jamir Miller in '01 represented the team in the Pro Bowl.
That all changed this year as the Browns put together their best season in a decade, finishing 10-6 and just barely missing the playoffs.
As a result, six Browns are making their first Pro Bowl appearances Sunday, tying them with three other AFC teams for the most from one franchise.
"It says a lot about what we did this season," quarterback Derek Anderson said.
Anderson began the year as a backup to Charlie Frye. A 34-7 whipping at the hands of Pittsburgh in Week 1 made this year look similar to the ones before it.
Anderson got the starting nod a week later against Cincinnati and threw for five touchdowns in a game that the Browns pulled out, 51-46. It was there that the seeds for success were finally planted.
"We started making plays the second game," Anderson said. "Guys bought in and we ran with it from there."
Anderson finished the season throwing for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns. He got plenty of help from Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow, who became the ninth receiver/tight end combination to each surpass 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
Both made the Pro Bowl, as did rookie offensive tackle Joe Thomas and long snapper Ryan Pontbriand.
But it was Cribbs who lit the fire under the Browns with his highlight-reel plays on special teams. He returned three kicks for touchdowns and had the second-most kick-return yards in a season in NFL history. He also led Cleveland in special-teams tackles.
"He won a lot of games for us," Winslow said of Cribbs. "Even the games we lost, he gave us a chance to win."
Cribbs played quarterback in high school and college and hadn't returned kicks since middle school. He went undrafted out of Kent State, but was signed by the Browns as a free agent.
"I told them wherever I had to play to make a football team, that's what I was going to play," Cribbs said. "D-line? Put me out there, Coach."
He made his impact as a kick returner and has excelled to the point that just three years later, he's a Pro Bowler.
"I had to come in through the back door," Cribbs said. "Now, I'm the main event."