Josh Cribbs opened his eyes and was surprised to see his teammates huddling around him on their knees. He got up and was approached by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, who shook Cribbs’ hand.
It felt like a dream.
“I was like, ‘What is Michael Irvin doing on the field?’ ” Cribbs said. “I thought I was seeing stuff.”
Fortunately, Cribbs can joke now about the vicious hit he absorbed last week in Baltimore, a crushing blow to the side of his head that knocked him unconscious, sent his helmet flying and left his family in tears.
Cribbs was cleared to return to practice Wednesday, less than a week after taking a hit that silenced a stadium and dazed a national TV audience. He remembers little of the shot he took from Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe on a kickoff return in the first quarter. As Cribbs was being wrapped up by the Ravens’ Morgan Cox, Ellerbe came in from the side and lowered his shoulder and forearm into Cribbs’ helmet, a legal but lethal shot.
Cribbs’ arms flew back and his dreadlocks flipped back before his head smashed into the synthetic turf. As Cribbs lay motionless, another Baltimore player accidentally kicked him in the face as players for both teams fought for the fumble. Cribbs, who has only watched one replay of the tackle, said he has little memory of it.
“I don’t remember much about the hit, but after I came up I was ready to play again,” Cribbs said. “They had to take my helmet and everything for me not play and had to keep tabs on me in the locker room so I wouldn’t run back out there. I was ready to play and I’m ready to play this week.”
After being helped to his feet, Cribbs noticed that many of his teammates — and most of the Ravens — had been kneeling in prayer as he was being treated by Cleveland’s medical staff. That’s also when he saw Irvin, who was broadcasting the game and came onto the field out of concern.