BEREA: Browns kicker Phil Dawson had a good idea he had been voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his long career, but he didn’t want to spoil the surprise for his wife, Shannon, and their three children.
So Dawson and his family — Shannon and the kids live in Austin, Texas, but were in town — watched the unveiling of the 43-man AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters Wednesday night on NFL Network.
“It was a pretty priceless moment when we saw the name flash up on the screen,” Dawson said during a conference call. “My kids went nuts ’cause my wife went nuts. That makes these 15 years of waiting worth it.”
Dawson and offensive left tackle Joe Thomas will represent the Browns in the Pro Bowl, which will be played at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu and will be televised on NBC. It’ll be Dawson’s first appearance in the all-star game. Thomas was selected to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in as many seasons.
“I’m really excited that Phil’s getting an opportunity to come with me because I think he’s been a guy that’s been deserving multiple times and to finally get his recognition, it really is awesome,” Thomas said. “He’s played as well as any kicker in the league for a number of years, and I think this is kind of the fruits of a lot of years of hard work for him.”
Dawson, the only remaining player from the Browns’ 1999 expansion season, has made 28-of-29 field-goal attempts this season — the only miss was blocked. His field-goal percentage of 96.6 this season leads the AFC and is second in the NFL. He has made six field goals of 50 yards or longer, which ties him for first in the AFC and third in the NFL in that category. His career field-goal percentage of 84.2 is the highest in Browns history and seventh-best in NFL history.
“As I was sitting there watching the [Pro Bowl announcement] show, I couldn’t help but remember my draft party back in 1998, where I was literally waiting to be drafted and had everyone around and the phone never rang,” Dawson said. “It seems like that dark cloud has kind of hung over my head as an undrafted guy ever since.
“So to have my name finally called, 15 years later is kind of hard to wrap my mind around because, I think in all honesty, I’ve kind of grown accustomed to having my name called and kind of being behind the scenes and the underdog and all those kind of things. So this is certainly a welcome change, but it’s not going to change who I am or how I go about my job. I’m just very grateful that at least one time in my career I get to experience this.”
Thomas, the third overall pick in the 2007 draft, has played all 95 games and hasn’t missed an offensive snap since joining the Browns. He joins running back Jim Brown as the only Browns players selected to the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons in the NFL. Thirteen of the 15 players who have made the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons have been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“It’s pretty humbling just to be mentioned in the same group with some of those other names that you hear, guys from different generations and many of them made the Hall of Fame,” Thomas said. “Certainly lots and lots of them had phenomenal careers and are guys that would be recognized all over the world whether you’re a football fan or not. To be part of that group, it’s pretty special and it’s pretty humbling just to think about it and just to sit back and look at some of those names.”
The Browns also had three players receive honors as alternates.
Josh Cribbs is a first alternate as a kick returner and special teamer. Cribbs won the fan vote — players and coaches also vote — among AFC special teamers. Middle linebacker D’Qwell Jackson and center Alex Mack are first alternates, too.
Dawson rallied and finished second among AFC kickers in the fan vote after punter Reggie Hodges launched an unofficial campaign on Twitter.
“To have a friend that’s a teammate like Reggie to go out of his way to kind of mobilize the fan base and just show that he cared about me and he knew this was a goal of mine, that means a tremendous amount, especially when you consider how rare it is to even have a friend in this business,” Dawson said. “I’m always going to remember Reggie’s role in this and be really appreciative of it.”
Dawson’s contract expires in March, and he could be playing his final game for the Browns (5-10) when they visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (7-8) on Sunday. He’ll try to relish the joy of becoming a Pro Bowler instead of wondering if his farewell to Cleveland is looming.
“There’s a lot of emotions right now,” Dawson said. “Obviously there’s a combination of those kind of mixing together. We’re just going to really enjoy it.”
Cribbs said he regrets responding to criticism from some fans on Twitter by lashing out with a profanity-laced message Sunday night after the Browns’ 34-12 loss to the Denver Broncos.
“I see all the negativity on Twitter after I gave my life to this [crap],” Cribbs wrote. “So [to] all [you] who are against me [screw] y’all! I’m still gonna do me!” Cribbs’ tweet was later deleted, but he followed with more to try to explain himself.”
Cribbs said about 10-15 fans, whom he called “bad apples,” sent him negative messages because he muffed a punt in the fourth quarter that the Broncos turned into their final touchdown.
“If you hit me at the right time, you press my buttons in the right way, finagle some things, I might say some things I’m going to regret,” Cribbs said Wednesday after practice. “And that’s all that was.
“The position that we’re in, you can’t do that. And I knew that when I pressed send. I just let my anger get the best of me, my frustration.”
Cribbs said coach Pat Shurmur did not fine him for his social-media outburst.
“If he had a Twitter, he’d probably say that, too,” Cribbs said. “He talked to me on the plane about it, just make sure I deleted it and that was that.”
Cribbs said he still loves Cleveland sports fans and wants to end his career with the Browns. Like Dawson, Cribbs might play his final game for the Browns on Sunday because his contract expires in March.
"If we beat Pittsburgh, it will be like, 'Josh said what?'" Cribbs said. "I am concentrating on doing that for the fans. One way I can redeem myself is to be play good against the Steelers."
Will Cribbs stop reading tweets directed toward him?
“No, I’ll just get thicker skin,” he said. “That has made me get thicker skin. I had a sour taste in my mouth from putting that out there.”
The Browns placed safety Usama Young on injured reserve Wednesday with a thumb injury that will likely require surgery, the team announced. Young started 11 of the 13 games in which he appeared this season. He compiled 52 tackles, including 1˝ sacks, three interceptions, seven passes defensed and a fumble recovery.
Undrafted rookie safety Tashaun Gipson returned to practice Wednesday after spraining his foot last week and sitting out against the Broncos. Gipson expects to start at free safety against the Steelers alongside Eric Hagg, who’s penciled in to play strong safety in place of Young. Strong safety T.J. Ward was placed on injured reserve last week with a bone bruise on his knee.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for Hagg,” Gipson said. “I have nothing but the utmost respect for his ability. I definitely think that we can get the job done. I don’t look at [Hagg] any differently than I would Usama and T.J. Losing those two guys definitely is huge, but I feel like Hagg definitely is capable of doing it. So I’m going to be comfortable with Hagg back there. Hopefully he’s comfortable with me back there.”
Cornerback Sheldon Brown (concussion/foot), tight end Jordan Cameron (head), quarterbacks Brandon Weeden (right shoulder) and Colt McCoy (right shoulder) and running back Trent Richardson (ankle) did not practice Wednesday. … Defensive end Jabaal Sheard will serve as the Browns’ fourth captain against the Steelers. … The Browns signed safety Jordan Mabin, a graduate of Nordonia High School, to their practice squad. … Cornerbacks Curtis Brown (ankle) and Keenan Lewis (knee), safety Troy Polamalu (not injury related) and wide receiver Mike Wallace (hip) did not practice for the Steelers.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com.browns.abj.