Browns returner 'a great challenge'

The Baltimore Sun

Ravens special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg might know Joshua Cribbs better than most people in the NFL. After all, it was Rosburg who - as the special teams coordinator for the Cleveland Browns in 2005 and 2006 - helped convert Cribbs from a quarterback to a return specialist who represented the AFC in the Pro Bowl in February.

As for identifying methods to neutralize Cribbs, who leads the Browns into a Sunday clash between AFC North rivals at M&T; Bank Stadium, Rosburg isn't revealing his cards.

"Tactical information, strategic information," Rosburg said with a smile. "We'll do whatever we can to try to limit his production. He's a fine returner, and everybody tries things during the year with guys like Josh Cribbs and [the Chicago Bears'] Devin Hester. They do whatever they can to try to limit him. He's a great challenge for us, and we're going to do whatever we can to try to limit his production."

It's no secret that Cribbs can jump-start the Browns with his returns. Cribbs, 25, has returned five kicks and punts for touchdowns since his rookie season in 2005, which ranks him second behind Hester, who has 11 return touchdowns since 2006.

Cribbs has not returned a kick for a touchdown against the Ravens, but he amassed a career-high 245 yards on seven kickoff returns - including returns of 39, 41 and 50 yards - in Cleveland's 33-30 overtime win Nov. 18.

Cribbs has been slowed by a left high ankle sprain that forced him to miss the final two preseason games and the regular-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. He has handled only one kickoff but ranks eighth in the AFC with an 8.8-yard average on five punt returns. He returned to practice yesterday - albeit in limited participation - after sitting out Wednesday.

Although Cribbs injured his hamstring in Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Ravens are likely to try to limit his opportunities by pinning him against the sidelines and angling punts away from him.

"You can't make mistakes on a guy like this because he will expose it," Ravens kicker Matt Stover said. "He's a tremendous athlete. He's made bad plays and the great plays for them. So we know we have to be fundamentally sound. What we have to do to mix him up, you'll have to wait until Sunday to see."

Injury update

Defensive tackle Kelly Gregg (arthroscopic left knee surgery), linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (right ankle) and cornerback Corey Ivy (sprained right ankle) did not practice yesterday.

Cornerbacks Fabian Washington (bulging disc in neck) and Derrick Martin (right shoulder) and wide receiver Yamon Figurs (hamstring) were limited for the second consecutive day. Linebacker Nick Greisen (thigh) was also limited.

Wide receiver Demetrius Williams (hamstring) was upgraded to full participation. He joined tight end Todd Heap (wrist) and right guard Marshal Yanda (knee).

For the Browns, three starters - linebacker Willie McGinest (hamstring), wide receiver Donte' Stallworth (strained quad) and left guard Eric Steinbach (shoulder) - did not practice.

Three other starters - running back Jamal Lewis (ankle), wide receiver Braylon Edwards (shoulder) and defensive tackle Shaun Smith (hand) - were limited in practice.

End zone

Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron reaffirmed coach John Harbaugh's assertion that running back Willis McGahee (arthroscopic left knee surgery) might rotate in at tailback with rookie Ray Rice and fullback Le'Ron McClain. "He's getting more reps in practice," Cameron said. " ... Those are the two backs that we're going with. Willis' role will increase. I think today's practice and tomorrow's practice will determine how much of a role he really has." ... The Browns returned 350 tickets to the Ravens for Sunday's game at M&T; Bank Stadium, and the team is making those tickets available to the public. Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 410-547-SEAT or by visiting www.baltimoreravens.com /tickets. The game is still considered a sellout and will be televised as scheduled.

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