BEREA — Joshua Cribbs went to the movies. He pictured his teammates relaxing at home. He listened to his agents and thought of the millions he deserved to be making.
No matter what he did, Cribbs couldnâ€™t forget he was missing minicamp.
So he dropped his â€œholdoutâ€ and returned to practice Tuesday — without a renegotiated contract. He was there again Wednesday, returning kicks, covering kicks and catching a receiver screen in his familiar No. 16 jersey.
â€œIt was eating me up,â€ Cribbs said. â€œWhen a guy has an injury and heâ€™s not with his team, thatâ€™s how it felt. And I didnâ€™t have an injury, so there was nothing keeping me from going back. I said to my agent, â€˜Look, you all handle that, Iâ€™m going back with the team.â€™
â€œI want to play football, Iâ€™m here to play football and Iâ€™m going to be on this football team. Hopefully everything works out in both our favor and we can make a compromise for myself and the team.â€
Cribbs has four years left on a six-year, $6.7 million deal, with the remaining yearly salaries around $700,000. He said he was promised a new deal last year by Phil Savage, who was then fired as general manager at the end of the season.
New general manager George Kokinis and coach Eric Mangini have been reluctant to renegotiate, and Cribbs wouldnâ€™t say if he would ask to be traded if he doesnâ€™t get a new contract.
â€œI canâ€™t tell the future,â€ he said. â€œI have a good rapport with the fans. I love being here in Cleveland. Thatâ€™s the most important thing.â€
Cribbs backed off the claim that owner Randy Lerner had reiterated the promise of a new con-tract during a phone call on Cribbsâ€™ bus ride home following the season-ending loss to Pittsburgh.
â€œIâ€™m not throwing anybody under the bus, especially our owner,â€ said Cribbs, who hasnâ€™t talked to Lerner recently. â€œRandyâ€™s done a good job leading this football team and putting the right people in positions to make those decisions.
â€œThe phone call I got? My mom.â€
The Browns issued a statement last week denying anyone from the current administration, in-cluding Lerner, had promised a new deal.
â€œThe statement was true, no current people,â€ Cribbs said. â€œThe old regime had made promises to me. I just felt funny about it.â€
Cribbs said the change at the top of the organization immediately gave him an uneasy feeling that his new deal wasnâ€™t going to happen.
â€œThat was in the back of my mind, but I always felt like if you endear yourself to a team and to this community that they would pay you for it, just show that honor,â€ he said. â€œBut itâ€™s a business.â€
Skipping even â€œvoluntaryâ€ minicamp doesnâ€™t fit Cribbsâ€™ personality. He works hard, has endless energy and takes pleasure in the menial tasks of the profession.
â€œIt was agony. I had to put in my mind the team wasnâ€™t practicing, that guys were sitting at home like I was,â€ he said. â€œI was trying to fill my day with other things.â€
Cribbs was already antsy when he came to team headquarters last Thursday to talk with Mangini, and the meeting convinced him of his next move.
â€œIt was real evident to me that the team was going on without me,â€ Cribbs said. â€œThis team is not going to lose any sleep over one guy.
â€œThe team is bigger than just one player. This town is bigger than me. I just want to be a part of it.â€
Cribbs realized that despite a Pro Bowl season in 2007 and back-to-back seasons as the only NFL player to lead his team in return yardage and special teams tackles, he had to start over with a new coach and GM.
â€œI came in feeling I didnâ€™t have to prove myself, but this is a new regime,â€ he said. â€œIâ€™ve got to think about how I came into the NFL, how I was willing to just play football, just proud to be on a football team. Iâ€™ve got to show them what I can do and Iâ€™ve got no problem with that.â€
The process will start on special teams and offense, where Cribbs took limited reps Wednesday, including running an end-around. Mangini said itâ€™s up to each player to â€œcarve out a niche.â€
â€œI donâ€™t ever look at it with limits or walls,â€ he said. â€œI look at it more as potential. The player defines how potentially big the role is.â€
Cribbs doesnâ€™t believe in limits, either.
â€œMy niche is I donâ€™t have a niche. Itâ€™s everywhere,â€ he said. â€œA lot of guys are calling me â€˜E.â€™ Itâ€™s like everything, all of the above.â€
Mangini is also intrigued by the idea of Cribbs at safety, but wants Cribbs to get acclimated to the new offense first. Cribbs was recruited by Syracuse and Maryland to play safety despite seeing limited action on defense in high school. He chose Kent State because he wanted to play quarter-back.
Nearly a decade later, defense sounds good.
â€œCanâ€™t wait. Canâ€™t wait,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s a lot of opportunities for me out there. Theyâ€™re limitless for me at this point.â€