Rash of injuries surprise Crennel
By John Harris
Friday, September 12, 2008
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BEREA, Ohio -- Cleveland Browns coach Romeo Crennel understands that injuries are a necessary evil in the NFL.

Crennel, however, expressed surprise at the high number of injuries that have plagued the Browns during offseason workouts, the exhibition season and last week's season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

Entering Sunday night's early AFC North showdown against the Steelers at Cleveland Browns Stadium, the Browns hope to welcome back four players, but they're still missing big free-agent acquisition Donte' Stallworth at receiver.

Stallworth suffered a quadriceps strain during pregame warmups before the 28-10 loss against Dallas. He hasn't practiced this week, and his absence leaves Braylon Edwards as Cleveland's only healthy receiver to start at least one NFL game.

"Injuries are a part of this game, and so far this year, they've been somewhat a part of this team. I don't think you can account for it because it wasn't like we beat them up in training camp or anything like that,'' said Crennel, who has had a total of 13 player injuries, including season-ending injuries to cornerback Daven Holley (torn ACL), guard Lennie Friedman (shoulder) and linebacker Antwan Peek (torn patella). "It's just these things happen, and sometimes it goes in cycles. Evidently this is our cycle.''

Starting safety Sean Jones is expected to miss 3-to-5 weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Thursday.

"I think when you have your starters on the field, that helps your players, first of all, because they feel like they have a full complement of guys available to play the game,'' Crennel said yesterday. "I think it impacts the opponent and their preparation and how they plan to defend you and the number of starters they have to defend.''

Joshua Cribbs, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Steelers last season, is expected to play after missing the opener with a high ankle sprain. Also expected back are guard Rex Hadnot (knee), linebacker Kris Griffin (elbow) and safety Brodney Pool (concussion). All four practiced this week.

Cribbs returned three kicks for touchdowns in 2007 and was voted to the Pro Bowl. In a 31-28 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field, Cribbs averaged 51.0 yards on four kickoff returns, including runbacks of 100 and 90 yards.

"I think we all know what Cribbs brings to the table. He is a unique talent,'' Crennel said. "All the players understand, and they realize how he's going to play the game, and I think that they block better as a result because they know how hard he's going to run.''

Said Cribbs: "Coach is working me back in there, seeing how far I can go, seeing what I can do and what I can't. What I do changes momentum. I'll do everything in my power to give our team a jump start. They (Steelers) kicked to me last year, and I did a pretty good job of returning. Then, they started kicking away from me. I think they're going to (kick to) me and see how it plays out.''

John Harris can be reached at [email="jharris@tribweb.com"]jharris@tribweb.com[/email] or 412-481-5432