It began to dawn on Josh Cribbs when he was an undrafted rookie with the Cleveland Browns: Even if he was accustomed to being an offensive star he could make a nice living as a special-teams player in the NFL.

Cribbs' special-teams coach at the time suggested he familiarize himself with the name Brian Mitchell. Mitchell like Cribbs was a college quarterback without the prototype NFL skill set. Mitchell had a 14-year career primarily as a return specialist and special-teams player.

Cribbs recalled the exhibition game in which he raced downfield and made a tackle inside the 20-yard line.

"A guy who had returned kicks the previous year came up to me and said 'You mean you can tackle too?' "

Cribbs said. "He was basically like 'Damn. I don't have a chance.' They released him. The more you can do the more you have value to your team."
Cribbs gets most of his publicity for his kickoff return skills -- he shares the NFL record of eight returned for touchdowns with Leon Washington -- but is involved in every part of special teams.

He brings to special teams what Charles Woodson brings to the defense -- a veteran presence who has done it all seen it all and is expected to not only make plays but also teach others how to make them.

Aside from returning kickoffs and punts and playing on coverage teams Cribbs has become the upback or "personal protector" on the punt team. He has even worked recently as an emergency long snapper.

A record-setting quarterback at Kent State Cribbs played some wide receiver and dabbled as a spread quarterback in Cleveland all the time realizing that special teams paid the bills.

"I've seen all-time great players in this league come and go" Cribbs said. "I'm hoping to make my 10th season next year. I won't abandon special teams and special teams won't abandon me."

Raiders coach Dennis Allen finds it appealing to have a player who isn't looking to use special teams as a steppingstone for a starting position on offense or defense.

"He understands his role is as a special-teams player first and he embraces that role" Allen said.

Cribbs 30 was released by the Browns following offseason knee surgery. He was a spectator through the Raiders' offseason but has been a regular participant in practice during training camp and is still following the lead of Mitchell even if the two have never met.