Q: You went to Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. with Vernon Davis. What were your impressions of him in high school?
CRIBBS: Elite guy. We knew he was blessed with size and strength. You could look at him and tell already that he was going to be an athlete. When I first met him, he came in eighth grade before his ninth grade year, I was like, “Wow!” Like when you first look at him. It was shocking. He was already looking like a senior in the ninth grade. Great talent. Athletic. Physically inclined. Everything.
Q: Did he have those muscles back in eighth grade?
CRIBBS: I grew up with him, so as I got older he got older and you knew that he was going to get bigger and bigger and faster and faster. I ran track with him as well. He ran a 4.3 in high school. I knew it was inevitable.
Q: What did Brad Seely bring to the Browns when he was the Special Teams coordinator there?
CRIBBS: He’s very smart. He brought a lot of fundamental, basic stuff. Just playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. A lot of guys get on special teams and they don’t know how valuable special teams is to the football team. Brad being an assistant head coach as well, special teams is everything. You came off of offense and defense before you came off of special teams. Just instilling that within the guys and how important it was to the football team. His attention to detail was just on point. Even looking at their film now, we can look at San Fran and coach ourselves off of them because Seely was such a great coach.
Q: Have all the schemes changed on special teams this season for you guys?
CRIBBS: Yes. Different coach, different system. Two different methods. (Chris) Tabor’s a great coach, though. He comes from a different line of coaches and a different family of coaches. A little old school, but at the same time it’s effective, and that’s what he’s been able to show with his high rankings in special teams. He’s a highly touted special teams coach.
Q: What do you remember from four years ago when you took a punt back for a touchdown against Andy Lee and the 49ers. What differentiates Lee from the other punters in the league?
CRIBBS: He outkicked his coverage a lot. Big leg. I think he was in the Pro Bowl the year before or that year. He was a big leg kicker. I love those punters that get the ball out there so I can get in some space, get some room. He can really boom the ball down the field to try to pin the offense back. I try to take advantage of that as much as possible against him.
Q: How does he compare with Shane Lechler?
CRIBBS: Those are two different guys. Lechler he puts the ball, he tries to directionally kick it, as far as keeping it away – a lot of kickers try to keep it out of my hands or kick it directionally. Punters who are not normally directional punters, when we play them they become directional punters – kick it way in the corner and muff kicks.
Q: Do you expect Andy Lee and Brad Seely to challenge you?
CRIBBS: I do. He has a great coverage unit. They really have a good NET in the way they cover punts – they’re top of the league. I think they’re going to use that experience they have with Brad and the guys that they have on special teams against us and punt the ball away to us.
Q: What can you tell us about Blake Costanzo and the relationship you had with him in Cleveland?
CRIBBS: I hung out with this guy. I still talk to him on a daily basis. An animal. He’s going to play in this league a long time just because of his special teams capabilities alone. He’s what every special teams player needs to be. High motor guy. Always has a nose for the football. He’s always in the right spot. You can always count on him to give it all he has, his effort. That’s what the makeup of a special teams player is, and he’s always looking to knock somebody out. He’s always looking to do his job and to do it well, so when you see it on film, he says, “Look at that. That’s beautiful. Look at me.” I love the guy he was. I love the player he was, the trash that he talked, I love it. That’s everything that a special teams player is supposed to be.
Q: What’s your new offense like for you?
CRIBBS: It’s been quite easy to obtain. Not really too difficult – West Coast offense, passing style, it’s been pretty simple thus far. Not too many wrinkles in there. It’s been allowing Coach to move the football around, to let a lot of receivers touch the football. That’s one thing he’s been able to do is spread the ball around quite a bit within the tight ends and the receivers. You have a tight end who has five catches, six catches, receivers having five, six catches and another receiver having four. The ball is being spread around quite a bit.
Q: Considering all the returns you’ve had for touchdowns in your career, how does the frustration build game after game when you don’t take one back?
CRIBBS: It builds. The frustration for me is coming into this year starting from scratch with a special teams unit, and trying to teach a lot of young guys every year the importance of special teams, the techniques and blocking, trying to help the coaches get them together. That’s what the lockout kind of prevented – that initial process of getting guys acclimated with special teams and the techniques and everything because it takes learning to learn how to drop back. We have guys that have never played special teams in their life covering kicks and blocking on kick returns and punt returns. It creates quite an issue. That’s where we stand now. We have inexperienced on the return units. They know how important it is. They’ve got that much down pat. We’re coming along.
Q: Do you have a green light to take the ball out of the end zone on kick returns?
CRIBBS: Oh yes. Whatever I feel, I know the most important thing is giving my offense the most field position out of it, as much as possible. If I feel like I can’t take it out I won’t. I very rarely get stopped inside the 20 and when I do, it’s probably a missed block, or if it’s on me I’ll go straight to the coach and say, “My fault. I owe you one for that. I owe you two.” They have complete faith in me and the kickoff return unit.
Q: What kind of challenges can Colt McCoy bring to the 49ers defense?
CRIBBS: Just his smartness. He is very smart. When the lights come on, I told him in practice today, “When all else fails use your feet.” He’s mobile. He’s quite mobile to be a pocket passing quarterback. He knows how to move around and make plays when none is to be made. He has that “it” factor. When stuff breaks down he can make something happen either with his feet or a throw after running out of the pocket.
Q: Getting back to Vernon, how did you guys use him in high school?
CRIBBS: It was mostly corner routes, shallow crosses, screens to him. We dumped a lot screens to him every now and then. He played defensive end for us in high school as well. In high school most of his routes were basic routes, like dig routes across the middle.
Q: He seems to have worked really hard on his hands in the NFL. Were there ever any issues with them back in high school?
CRIBBS: No. He never had any problems with his hands. He never had any issues dropping the ball. When it was thrown to him he caught it. It was as simple as that. It never was an issue. Never came up.
Q: Joshua Morgan says Vernon thinks he was a good high school basketball player but he wasn’t actually very good. Where do you fall on that.
CRIBBS: Vernon was very good. He was very athletic. He could jump higher than I’ve seen most people jump. You could tell athletes when you see it. I used to see him dunk over people. Me and Josh Morgan had two different views, but he didn’t go to Dunbar. I see him play every day, so I have a different point of view.
And here are some bonus Cribbs quotes, courtesy of the Cleveland Browns.
(On if Brad Seely is helping the 49ers special teams this year)-“Definitely, he’s an awesome special teams coach and he’s proven it. They are going out there and they are like top five in the league in special teams. He’s a pretty good coach.”
(On if Seely has helped Ted Ginn or if Ted Ginn has helped Seely)- “I think he’s helped Ted Ginn. Each coach can bring something new to a player and his ability. He’s certainly done that with Ted and with the whole special teams unit. It’s more than just the returner.”
(On if he was Vernon Davis’ quarterback when they were in high school)- “Yes, he was my tight end in high school. We ran track together. That’s an awesome talent right there. He is just a freak of nature. In eighth grade he has that size that he does now. He was a big kid.”