Even as Browns receiver/returner Joshua Cribbs appears to have emerged relatively unscathed from a nasty hit on the final play of a 16-0 Monday night loss to the Baltimore Ravens, his agent ripped the team Tuesday for exposing Cribbs in such dangerous circumstances.
Cribbs was released from the Cleveland Clinic early Tuesday morning and precautionary tests were negative, according to a statement released by the Browns. But agent J.R. Rickert questioned why Cribbs was on the field for a risky hook-and-lateral with just three seconds remaining in an unwinnable game.
''He understands his role is to play and perform,'' Rickert said. ''From my perspective, this could and should have been avoided. I suggest he should not have been on the field and the Browns should not have called the play.
''You've got to minimize risk and I'm not sure that consideration was taken into account.''
Rickert said he thinks Cribbs is ''going to be fine,'' but wouldn't speculate on Cribbs' status for Sunday's game at Detroit.
''He's in good spirits, he doesn't sound like he's been shaken by this,'' Rickert said. ''I can't speak to the medical part. Every precaution is being taken by the club and the medical staff.''
Browns coach Eric Mangini said Cribbs did not sustain a concussion and was optimistic that he might play against the Lions. But he did say that he'd probably ''hand the ball off'' if he had it to do over again.
''Those situations, it was a competitive moment, I think in retrospect I would probably do it differently if I had to do it again,'' Mangini said on a conference call. ''It's competitive, I thought Josh could make something happen there. You don't want anybody to get hurt on any play.
''There's not that many choices, you either throw it or hand it off. We were trying to move the football.''
Mangini said kneeling down was not an option.
''It's competitive and you don't kneel down at the end of a game. It's not traditionally done,'' Mangini said.
Rickert said he and Cribbs feel differently about the play, when he was upended by Ravens defensive end Dwan Edwards just after he lateraled the ball to tight end Robert Royal. Cribbs had to be immobilized near midfield, while surrounded by players from both teams taking part in the post-game prayer. He still wore his helmet as he left Cleveland Browns Stadium in an ambulance.
Asked if the hook-and-lateral was a called play, Mangini said, ''It was more of a catch-and-run type play with them sitting as soft as they were. Josh sort of improvised at the end there, flipping it to Robert. Looking at the defender come back, he turned and pursued. I'm not sure whether he realized Josh had the ball or not.''
Asked if it was a dirty hit, Mangini said, ''That would be a better question for (Cribbs). I can see from the tape he did turn and pursue and was looking for the ball. There wasn't a lot of time between the flip and contact. It's hard to say that.''
Rickert said Cribbs is ready to move past the incident.
''He's not harboring any negative feelings about the situation at all,'' Rickert said. ''He's not upset. He's a professional, he understands his job is to play and perform and help the Browns win games. He doesn't care if it's preseason or the last play of the game. That's his nature as a competitor.
''But my perspective is to protect him. Why should he be on the field, that's a coach's decision. Calling the play is the same thing. To me you want to minimize exposure, whether it's Josh Cribbs or anybody on the field.''
Mangini said he spoke to Cribbs ''for a while'' on Tuesday.
''Everything yesterday after the hit, what they wanted to do was make sure everything was OK,'' Mangini said. ''I think Josh felt like he could have gotten up at that point, but he didn't want to disregard what the medical people were saying and I wouldn't want him to do that. They did the (medical) testing.
''He's moving around fine today, a little stiff and tired. But in typical Josh style, focused on Detroit.''
Rickert is seeking to renegotiate Cribbs' contract, a six-year, $6.7 million deal signed in November, 2006 that has 3 1/2 years remaining. Arguably the Browns' best player and perhaps on track for his second Pro Bowl selection, the former Kent State quarterback has played all season despite no progress in negotiations.