With Cribbs In Camp, Browns Can Focus On The Field

Michael HeinbachCorrespondent IMay 26, 2009

CLEVELAND - DECEMBER 30:  Joshua Cribbs #16 of the Cleveland Browns jumps into the stands to celebrate a first quarter punt return for a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers on December 30, 2007 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 20-7. (Photo By Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

By MICHAEL HEINBACH

The agent for Cleveland Browns wide receiver/return specialist Josh Cribbs sent a text message Monday evening to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, stating that Cribbs will participate in the team's voluntary minicamp Tuesday.

The Pro Bowl returner held out of voluntary workouts last week in an effort to renegotiate his contract, which is slated to pay him the remaining four years of a $6.77 million, six-year deal signed prior to the 2007 season.

Last week, the complete Browns roster had a chance to work together under new head coach Eric Mangini for the first time since his hiring in January. Mangini himself expressed concern through the media that Cribbs was missing valuable time with the team.

After talking face-to-face with Mangini at Browns headquarters in Berea, Ohio, on Thursday and attending a team meeting, Cribbs has apparently retreated from the stance he outlined in a recent press release. Cribbs had stated he wouldn't attend workouts unless there was "meaningful dialogue" toward contract renegotiation.

Cribbs became a fan favorite after joining Cleveland in 2005 as an undrafted free agent following a collegiate career playing quarterback at Kent State, much in part to his play on special teams. Cribbs hasn't just become one of the top-tier return men in the NFL, he's blossomed into the team's best tackler on kick coverage.

By holding out, Cribbs was in danger of not only falling out of favor with a head coach teaching his new squad the Mangini way, but also with the Browns' loyal fan base, which had previously held him in the highest regard.

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We don't know what was said during the meeting between Cribbs and Mangini, but the coach told the press last Thursday he was anxious for Cribbs to practice with the team.

"These are voluntary camps, so it's not a mandatory situation," Mangini said. "Everybody has to make the decision whether to attend or not attend. But I can tell you there is a ton of information going in. It is an opportunity for us to see all of the different players. When you're here you get those reps, when you're not you don't. Getting those reps and and learning, that's always a positive thing."

No one can say what exactly led to Cribbs reversing his position. Maybe there were meaningful talks regarding the contract, Mangini might have turned up the heat, or Cribbs maybe felt he had to attend in order to retain his status as one of the faces of the franchise.

But, in attending camp Tuesday, Cribbs took a positive step toward earning trust from Mangini in addition to regaining his image in the eyes of Cleveland fans.

Browns backers can take comfort knowing Cribbs has now put the team before himself and not allowed his personal issues with the franchise detract from being a fully-participating member of the team.

Coming to camp wasn't just the right move, it was the only way for Cribbs to show the Browns he was sincere in stating he wanted to spend the rest of his NFL career in a Cleveland uniform.

With the hold out behind him, Cribbs can now focus on becoming an integral member of the team and let his actions negotiate a new deal.