Earlier today, The Orange & Brown Report first reported that, barring an unexpected and unforeseen change of heart, Josh Cribbs would not be attending the Browns' first "voluntary" full-team minicamp, which begins tomorrow.
Cribbs, in part, is upset over the fact that the club has yet to address his current contract situation to his satisfaction. Specifically, as multiple sources have stated on numerous occasions over the past three months, Cribbs had been promised before and after the firing of the old regime by, among others, owner Randy Lerner that he "would be taken care of" contractually.
In reaction to our report, and the reports thereafter by various media entities, the Cleveland Browns released the following statement through their website this afternoon:
"Contrary to published reports this morning, no one from the current Browns organization, including Owner Randy Lerner, has ever made any promises to Josh Cribbs with regard to his contract status."
So, there you have it. In black and white. No gray area there.
Or, as a certain former Browns GM said last season, "That's the end of the story. It is over with, OK?"
Nope, not by a longshot. Unfortunately.
First of all, the statement released by the Browns is not sitting well with the Cribbs camp and could further add to tenuous nature of the situation.
The OBR has learned that, earlier this afternoon, Cribbs' agents -- J.R. Rickert and Peter Schaeffer -- sent an e-mail to new general manager George Kokinis in which the player representatives expressed their displeasure over how their client was portrayed in the statement released through the club's website.
It's believed the statement made Cribbs "look like a liar or a fabricator" as one source put it, and needs to be addressed by the organization as quickly and publicly as possible.
Secondly, we had three sources for our original story this morning. Suffice to say, as it relates to this story, you could not have three stronger sources than the ones we used to break this story.
In fact, you could say they are the only three people who really know what has gone down over the past nine months.
Now, in the wake of the Browns' denial, we have continued digging and found additional information which further confirms our original story.
A source close to ex-general manager Phil Savage confirmed earlier this afternoon that the organization, Lerner included, held multiple discussions with Cribbs and/or his agent(s) regarding his contract. The first such discussion occurred in late 2007 -- in the midst of Cribbs' Pro Bowl season -- and it was reiterated over the course of the next 12-14 months.
In each instance, the source said, Cribbs was told "there is a time and a place for everything, and this is not the time" and that nothing could be done for him contractually at the moment, but the issue would be meaningfully addressed following the season.
Obviously, Savage and head coach Romeo Crennel weren't allowed to follow through on their stance as they are no longer members of the organization. To be fair, the Savage source "has no clue" whether or not Lerner reiterated to Cribbs following their exit that he would still be taken care of.
Additionally, a source close to Cribbs confirmed yet again this afternoon that Cribbs indeed talked to the owner of the club following the dismissal of Savage.
According to the source, Cribbs received a phone call from Lerner while he was on the team bus following the Browns' season-ending loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
During the course of the conversation, Lerner thanked Cribbs for "being a good soldier" during a rough season and, the source said, told him that his "situation would be addressed" even as the organization was embarking on a regime change.
In March, Cribbs was told by Kokinis that the two sides "would engage in meaningful dialogue" following the conclusion of the 2009 draft. In exchange for "meaningful dialogue", Cribbs agreed to participate in team activities that he originally planned on skipping.
That "meaningful dialogue" has yet to happen, at least to the satisfaction of Cribbs, and will result him not being a part of the minicamp tomorrow.
And, if the situation is not addressed in the not-too-distant future a source hinted, there's a very real possibility that Cribbs will request/demand a trade.
This afternoon, The OBR reached out to Lerner via e-mail, and provided the owner an opportunity to address the imbroglio personally. We provided the text of the story above to Lerner and requested a comment on the latest development.
And that he did.
In a subsequent phone conversation this evening, Lerner told The OBR that he has neither addressed Cribbs' contract with the player personally, nor has he spoken to the player over the phone regarding his contract.
According to Lerner, no promises were made by him to Cribbs regarding his contract as that's not how the organization operates. Lerner left no doubt as to his version of how the events of the last year and a half transpired.
In response to Lerner's comments on the way the situation has developed, Rickert gave The OBR the following statement:
"We have incredible trust in our client, and we have cell phone records to back up that trust. After talking to Lerner [on the day of the season finale], [Cribbs] called [his agents], called his financial advisor, called numerous people, to let us know what he had just talked to Lerner about. We respectfully disagree with their statement and how it portrays our client. We aren't trying to throw anybody under the bus, but we stand by the credibility of our client."
So, what does all of this mean?
For the moment, it means that Cribbs will not be participating in the minicamp tomorrow.
As for the future, that's up to Cribbs, his agents and the front office to determine how all of this ultimately plays out.