- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Our weekly Q & A is with Josh Cribbs, one of the most prolific kick returners in NFL history. The former longtime Cleveland Brown has more than 12,000 return yards and 20 total touchdowns. At Kent State, he played quarterback and passed for more than 7,000 yards.
You'll be remembered as one of the best kick returners in history. How does that make you feel?
JC: It's humbling, it really is. I had that goal in mind. I wanted to emulate Brian Mitchell, him being a college quarterback as well. Actually, my coach I came in with was Jerry Rosburg, who coaches for Baltimore now. His standard was high. Looking back on my accolades, and looking at what I have now, it's about production and the upgrade. I feel like since I've been here our return game has improved. The production is up. We moved from 24th to 14th. My goal is to keep climbing every week, to bust a return and get to the 40 every return. It's all about production. Even in my latter years, I can still produce.
Do you ever wonder how your career might have turned out if you had remained a quarterback?
JC: I'm not sure. Everything happens for a reason. I don't think the league was ready for my style of play. It's the style now. If I was coming out now, I'd be highly sought after. I think I could've made it as a quarterback, but when I worked out for the Browns before the (2005) draft, they told me I'd pretty much make the team if I switched positions. I wanted to be in the league, so I did.
Who has been the most influential person on your career?
JC: I'd say my wife, Maria. When I first got in (football), I was a quarterback and the quarterback is the head of the team. I really didn't get into too much trouble in college. I didn't get yelled at. When I came into the league with the Browns, I was getting yelled at and cussed out. I was like, 'Man, this NFL thing ain't for me.' I don't cuss people out, that's not me. There was a time in camp when I called my wife and I called my mom. I said, 'You know what? I don't think this is the direction I want my life to go.' My wife was the one who said, 'Baby, you've been doing this since before I met you. Your life led up to this for a purpose and you're going to stay the course.' I wanted to leave camp, it was terrible, my rookie season. My wife has been that driving force, even when I went out to Oakland for a short time and I was hurting. I wasn't quite healthy and she was massaging my feet, pressing me on.
You're 30 years old and you've played nine years. How long do you want to do this?
JC: I always said I'd play until the wheels fall off. They haven't quite fallen off. The screws are loose, but they never fell off. On game day, I light up. I still have a passion to go down there and still make the tackles. I'm smart in the game, so I don't have to be out of control when I run. I know where the holes should be, so that's why my production still is solid. I'm smart when I play. I still take a lot of hits. It's unfortunate, but I love this sport. I love getting hit. It's a powerful game. Like the last game, we're losing and everybody is looking down. I'm like, 'No, I love this. This is what football is all about.'
There were concerns about your surgically repaired knee in the offseason. How is it now?
JC: Some teams (in the offseason) were worried about my knee. I'm like, 'Look, I've played through so much pain.' It was like this last year, and I played through it and I made the Pro Bowl. It was hurting. When I was in the Pro Bowl, it hurt, but I played. I didn't come all the way to Hawaii not to play. I told all the teams I worked out for, 'Look, I've played in pain.' I didn't miss any games last year. That's what I boast -- durability. I boast durability. My 80 percent is better than some guys at 100. The injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent, but you play through it. If I can still move my leg up and down, I'm out there.