Carrying the load

CLEVELAND – In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a lot of Josh Cribbs in Browns running back Trent Richardson.

Cribbs always carried an I-can-do-anything attitude with him during an eight-year run with the Browns. Ask Cribbs if he could play quarterback and the answer was yes. Ask him if he could be a running back and the answer again yes. Ask him if he could walk on the moon and the answer was yes.

Get the picture? Cribbs never said no to any challenge of a reporter’s question, even if he couldn’t fulfill the task.

Richardson is acting much like Cribbs these days as the Browns are dealing with a hit at their running back depth. Montario Hardesty is out with a hamstring injury and a broken thumb, and Dion Lewis could be sidelined for a lengthy period of time with a fractured fibula, all of which means Richardson believes he can pick up the slack.

“I’m that guy that wants to put the team on my back,” Richardson said. “I am the guy that wants to carry the load. I’m going to be in the shape to play all three downs.

“I told coaches if they want me to I can play special teams. No matter what, I’m out here to win, just like everyone else. That’s our team motto this year.”

It hasn’t been determined if Lewis will miss the entire year or be ready at some point during the season. Prior to the injury he had shown the ability to be a dependable situational back to complement Richardson.

“He’s a big part of the offense,” Richardson said. “I’m learning more from him every day, just how quick he is. Just a great person. We’re going to keep his spirits lifted high. We’re going to keep him in our prayers. I don’t know if we’re going to lose him for the season, but if we do there are a lot of opportunities for guys.”

Losing Lewis for any length of time would be a big blow to offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has a track record of success working with change-of-pace backs like Lewis. Darren Sproles was a successful partner to LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego when Turner coached the Chargers.

“It was disappointing because Dion has come in and really worked hard at catching the ball and worked hard at his pass protection,” Turner said. “He was a guy I thought was going to give us some big plays, and I don’t know whether he’s out. I’d love to see him be able to come back.

“We’ve got to be able to handle those things and have a plan for someone else. We have guys who can handle that role. I don’t know that we have a guy like Dion. We have some guys that can be pass protectors or guys that can catch the ball coming out of the backfield.”

No matter which players back up Richardson, it will still come down to how healthy and productive the 2012 first-round pick can be throughout the season. He clearly wasn’t the back the Browns thought they had drafted after he suffered two cracked ribs in the second game of last season.

“Ultimately, you’d like Trent to have some of that (multi-dimensional) role, particularly in two-minute situations and end-of-the-game situations,” Turner said. “We’d like him to fill that role because if you’ve got your best player on the sidelines, you’re probably not taking advantage of all your guys. We can’t wear Trent out, but we have to be able to use him in similar situations.”

The Browns will move forward with Richardson, Brandon Jackson and Hardesty. Depth was added Sunday when former Youngstown State University back Jamaine Cook was signed. Cook was with the Browns during a rookie minicamp last May.

Chris Ogbonnaya, who’s been tested at fullback all of camp, will also get time at running back.

“I think Brandon has done an awfully good job,” Turner said. “He’d be a guy on the teams I’ve been on that would be very competitive in terms of being the second guy, and he probably would have played a lot as a starter in some of the places I’ve been. Chris can do a lot of things, and he’s played third-down back. It’s hard losing the guys we’ve lost, but we have a plan and we’re working those other guys.”