BALTIMORE: Browns Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs left Thursday night’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium with a head injury after a violent tackle knocked off his helmet.
Browns coach Pat Shurmur termed Cribbs’ injury as a concussion.
On a 14-yard punt return, Cribbs was hit by Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who smashed into Cribbs with his shoulder. As Cribbs hit the turf, his head snapped back and he was kicked in the face.
Cribbs fumbled and Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain recovered at the Browns 40 with 5:07 left in the first quarter. The fumble was upheld by the replay booth.
Shurmur rushed to Cribbs’ side along with the medical team and Browns and Ravens players knelt in prayer by a motionless Cribbs. After a minute or two, Cribbs sat up and then walked off the field, though wobbly. A few minutes later, Cribbs was led to the locker room.
Cribbs started at wide receiver in place of Mohamed Massaquoi, out with a hamstring injury. It was the first start of the season for Cribbs, a Kent State product who had been relegated to special teams duties in the first three games.
Browns rookie receiver Travis Benjamin took over the punt and kickoff return duties.
The Ravens drove to the Browns’ 10 after Cribbs’ turnover, but linebacker Craig Robertson snuffed the march, intercepting a Joe Flacco pass in the end zone.
The return of the NFL’s regular officials drew national television crews and referee Gene Steratore, a former Kent State quarterback, took advantage of his time in the spotlight.
Warmly welcomed during warm-ups, Steratore tipped his cap to the crowd and nodded. He was hugged by Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and also approached by safety Ed Reed.
“Good evening, men; it’s good to be back,” Steratore said during the coin toss.
The regular officials took the field less than 24 hours after the NFL and NFL Referees Association struck a deal on an eight-year collective bargaining agreement.
Even though the NFLRA still must ratify the new CBA, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell temporarily lifted the lockout, and regular officials worked the game between the Browns and Ravens. Steratore, a co-owner of a supply company in his 10th NFL season, led a seven-man crew.
“Quite honestly, I’m a little surprised even though it got done that we’re getting them tonight,” Browns President Mike Holmgren said before the game. “I didn’t know they could do it that fast. I’m glad we have ’em tonight. I always said I thought maybe two games and it wound up being three.
“It was tough for everybody in the beginning. Everyone tried to do the best they could.”
The league locked out the regular officials after their contract expired in June. The experiment with their replacements reached a boiling point on Monday night, when the Seattle Seahawks were credited with a victory over the Green Bay Packers after a controversial call on a Hail Mary pass.
“We are sorry to have to bring our fans through that,” Goodell said during a news conference Thursday at NFL headquarters in New York. “We are sorry to bring the general public through that. That is the unfortunate part of labor management disputes, but they are also necessary to get those disputes resolved and in a way that makes sense.”
Holmgren said his four daughters, all football fanatics, phoned him about the Monday night outcome. Comments about that game from President Barack Obama and the governor of Wisconsin didn’t surprise him.
“Nothing surprises me coming from Wisconsin, though, having coached there,” Holmgren said. “It’s the most popular game going. Even a nonfootball fan watches the Monday night game and has an opinion about it. The president is a football fan.”
Holmgren thought some players may have taken advantage of the replacement officials, but wasn’t sure if there would be an adjustment period. He presumed Shurmur brought that up before the game.
“There were some aspects of the game that appeared to be difficult to officiate,” Holmgren said. “Contact downfield was one that seemed fairly obvious to me most of the time.
“Players are players and coaches are coaches. If you see, ‘Geez, they’re not calling that.’ Or, holding, offensive linemen, ‘I’ll keep doing it until someone tells me I can’t do it.’ I didn’t talk to Pat about this specifically. I think every staff is going to talk about, ‘OK, now, that will get called. Remember what you’ve been taught,’ if you had a particular group or a player that tried to do a little bit of extra stuff.”
Big night for Jamal Lewis
Former running back Jamal Lewis, who played for the Ravens and Browns, was inducted into the Ravens’ Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony. He ran onto the field with the offense during pregame introductions and participated in the coin toss.
“Thanks for all the memories and thanks for giving me the best night of my life,” Lewis told the crowd at halftime.
With Massaquoi sidelined, receiver Jordan Norwood was active for the first time this season.
With cornerback Joe Haden serving the third of his four-game suspension, Dimitri Patterson and Sheldon Brown took the two starting spots.
Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, free safety Eric Hagg, running back Brandon Jackson, rookie linebacker James-Michael Johnson (ribs/oblique), rookie offensive tackle Ryan Miller and tight end Alex Smith (concussion) were the Browns’ other inactive players.
Hagg was inactive for the second consecutive game after starting the first two. Jackson was inactive for the third game in a row. Smith hasn’t played since he was injured Sept. 16 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Browns linebacker Scott Fujita is expected to meet with Goodell today regarding the New Orleans Saints’ bounty case, NFL Network and other media outlets reported. Fujita was scheduled to talk to Goodell via videoconference Sept. 18, but it was canceled because the league wanted an in-person meeting.
Fujita’s three-game suspension for his alleged role in the bounty scandal was lifted by a three-member appeals panel on Sept. 7. Fujita has repeatedly denied the league’s accusations that he contributed to a pool that allegedly paid his former Saints teammates for intentionally injuring opponents. Goodell, though, might reissue punishments for Fujita and the three other players who received suspensions.
Incoming Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III attended the game and talked to Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome on the field during the pregame. … Browns defensive end Jabaal Sheard notched his first sack of the season late in the first half. … Robertson’s interception broke Flacco’s streak of 125 consecutive passes without an interception. Flacco’s last in that situation came Dec. 7, 2009, at Green Bay. … Ravens players are wearing patches on their uniforms and employees have lapel pins in memory of former owner Art Modell, who died Sept. 6. Black circles with “Art” in white letters were painted on the turf at the end of each sideline.