July 24, 2016

Partly cloudy

Cribbs dislikes proposed change

Scott Petrak

The Gazette

BEREA — A possible plan to eliminate the kickoff, floated by commissioner Roger Goodell in a Time Magazine article, didn’t go over well with the two mainstays of the Browns’ special teams.

“Then they need to change football leagues or call it a different league if they do that,” returner/coverage ace Joshua Cribbs said. “It’ll change (the game) drastically. I couldn’t ever see that. That’s like taking the goalpost and uprooting it. Only play offense and defense, just like intramurals. Play indoors and put flags in our pants.”

“I don’t think this suggestion makes sense,” kicker Phil Dawson said Friday.

The proposal, from Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano, would replace the kickoff by giving the team the ball at its 30-yard line in a fourth-and-15 situation. The “kicking” team could punt or go for it.

The punt, which is considered to have fewer violent collisions than kickoffs, would become the default scenario. Trying to convert fourth-and-15 would replace the onside kick late in the game.

“I’m all for player safety,” Dawson said. “This suggestion doesn’t add up. Punts are just as violent.

“It’s the same play. When the ball is 50 yards down the field, guys are running full speed and you get a lot of cross blocks and guys getting knocked out. I watch wide receivers get concussions each and every week in the NFL, yet we’re going to pick on kickoffs. That doesn’t add up to me.”

Goodell has put an intense spotlight on player safety, and the kickoff has already been tweaked. It was moved up to the 35-yard line to promote touchbacks, and the three- and four-man wedge were outlawed to reduce the worst of the collisions.

Cribbs made his career returning and covering kicks.

“It’s getting to be too much of an entertainment business instead of a sport,” he said. “We won’t even be on NFL Network, we’ll be on MTV. It’d be a made-up sport, wouldn’t even be a sport.”

Dawson believes kickoffs are an integral part of the game.

“Absolutely. There is so much scheming, personnel matchups, strategy that goes into each and every kickoff that people will never understand,” he said. “From when I was a little kid I dreamed about having the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl and all the flashbulbs go off and I want to be that guy.”

War of words

Left tackle Joe Thomas ended the back-and-forth with Chiefs running back and former teammate Peyton Hillis.

“I’ve answered my last Peyton Hillis question for the week,” Thomas said Friday.

On Wednesday, Thomas called Hillis’ 2011 season in Cleveland a “terrible distraction” and a “toxic” situation. He said Hillis cared more about getting a new contract than playing and accused him of refusing to play.

On Thursday, Hillis shot back, saying Thomas was “kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend, you know? It’s been over a year. Get over it.”

On Sunday, they will play at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Thomas was asked about the possibility of playing defense so he could face Hillis.

“It could be a secret,” he joked. “Don’t tell anybody.”

Hodges honored

Punter Reggie Hodges was chosen the Ed Block Courage Award winner after a vote of his teammates. He’s the first punter in team history to win the award, which is given to a player from each team who exemplifies courage, compassion, commitment and community service.

Hodges returned from a ruptured Achilles tendon that forced him to miss the 2011 season. He went on a mission trip to Jamaica in the offseason and is active in the Cleveland community.

“I think it’s great,” Dawson said. “He’s a great locker room guy and a great guy in the community. He certainly deserves that award.”

Extra points

Cornerback Sheldon Brown, 33, plans to play next season and hopes it’s with the Browns. He’s in the last year of his contract.

“I don’t want to be one of those guys that plays for three, four, five different organizations in the National Football League,” he said. “But I still think that I can play this game. I still enjoy playing this game. Whatever happens is going to happen, I don’t worry about that. But I do plan to play next year.”

l Dimitri Patterson is expected to play Sunday for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain Oct. 7. He’s missed seven games, including as a healthy scratch last week after returning to practice.

“You’re talking about two months of football,” he said. “It’s going to be a good feeling.”

Patterson will return to his nickel role, bumping Buster Skrine to the fourth cornerback.

l Everyone on the Browns’ injury report was listed as probable. No one is out, doubtful or questionable — a rarity in the league.

Contact Scott Petrak at (440) 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him Twitter.