On Thursday, the Raiders announced they had officially signed former All Pro return man, Josh Cribbs to a one-year contract. It is late in the off-season to be signing someone of Cribbs' caliber but the Raiders, like several other teams, were waiting for him to get healthy.
The 29-year old return specialist suffered a torn meniscus (knee) last season and spent much of the off-season healing from the injury. In the past week, he was taking visits with sudden interest in his services which led many to believe he indeed was cleared and ready to go.
Cribbs visited several teams, including the New York Jets where Jets' GM John Idzik said publicly that Cribbs' knee was not healed. This was brought up to Cribbs in a conference call Thursday and he did not dispute the current condition of his knee but said he would be ready to go when it counts.
"I'm doing well," said Cribbs. "We never had planned to comment on injury but we play our first game in September or August and it's barely June. We're not lining up to play football. If we were lining up to play football in June then it would be a hot topic. I will be ready to play football when it's time to play football and I think that is the important thing.
"I don't know why the Jets GM would come out and say that other than use it as a negotiation tactic. It was well perceived and I think, as a whole, everyone kind of understood what was going on about that."
When the Raiders do play football, Cribbs would like to play some receiver but his primary focus and passion is on special teams. He has made a living as one of the most dangerous return men in the game for eight seasons.
"I feel like it's a definite possibility for competition at [wide receiver]." Said Cribbs. "At this point, my job is to come in and be a special teams' guru to help solidify our special teams unit in the NFL and to raise our goals and our standards. If we do that, we will become an elite unit... You can have the ability to change the football game.
"When you have a dynamic special teams unit, you can be slightly subpar on offense and defense but the special teams carry. When you don't have a good special teams, you've got to have a good defense and a good offense. But with a dynamic special teams, we can set up field position for the offense and pin opposing offenses deep in their own territory to set up a good opportunity for our defense to stop them."
The Raiders have shown a renewed effort to put together a strong special teams unit this season. They hired Bobby April as the new Special Teams Coordinator and have signed linebackers and tight ends with an emphasis on coverage and return teams. There is also the signing of punter Chris Kluwe.
These efforts played a role in Cribbs choosing the Raiders as his next team.
"I commend the effort," said Cribbs. "I wanted to also come to a team that the head coach, the GM and organization were committing to their special teams unit. I feel like we have a great special teams unit... So, I really commend their efforts to creating a dynamic situation for our special teams to be an elite team in the NFL... I'm just fortunate enough to be able to assist in that under Coach April."