Can Josh Cribbs be his old self as he joins the Colts?

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Colts receiver and kick returner Josh Cribbs goes through drills during his first practice with the team.

INDIANAPOLIS – Traditionally you see it and hear it. In a spiritual sense, you could also probably say you feel it too.

But using a nose to get a sense of a team’s success both in the present and the past is something new–just like Josh Cribbs is to the Colts’ special teams.

“They smell like playoffs. They smell like Super Bowl,” said the kick returner, who signed with the Colts Tuesday and was in the locker room on Wednesday. “It’s just awesome to be in a locker room with a bunch of guys that just want it as bad as they do.”

Judging by their comments on Wednesday the Colts want him too–and they hope he can be the player he was early in his career when he was one of the NFL’s elite kick returners.

“The good Lord blessed him with great football talent, toughness, instincts, all the things necessary to do what he’s done in the past in this league and play at a very high level,” said head coach Chuck Pagano of Cribbs. “So you guys know his resume as well as I know his resume. God willing and the creek don’t rise, his legs don’t give out on him, he’ll probably be returning kicks for us. We’ll see.”

Will it be this week? Pagano says that’s to be determined but he does believe based on what he saw last week during a workout that Cribbs could return to his early career form when he returned an NFL-record eight kickoffs and three punts for touchdowns while as a member of the Browns from 2005 through 2009.

“We brought the guy in, he was in excellent shape a couple of weeks ago. There was availability, there was room,” said Pagano of the decision to sign Cribbs. “We talked about the roster; we got a really good football player out there that we felt like could help us win.”

The returner really, really wants to help the Colts do that. Instead of flying down from Cleveland for his workout he drove the five or so hours to Indianapolis. Cribbs even said his car broke down here during his time while working out for the Colts and he left it behind to get fixed.

“As soon as I got here, they called me and were like, ‘Your car’s done.’ I was like that’s nothing but God right there,” said Cribbs. “It was confirmation that I’m supposed to be.”

That appeared to be Cleveland, where Cribbs still keeps a residence, until that team released him in 2013. He signed with the Raiders after that but was cut before the season began and then latched on with the Jets on Oct. 15 of that year.

After 28 total kick returns and two receptions for New York, Cribbs suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in late November and has not been on a roster since signing with the Colts on Tuesday.

Cribbs hopes he can be ready for Sunday when the Colts face the Jaguars and add something to the Colts return game. With Griff Whalen taking a majority of the kickoffs the Colts are 11th in average yards a return (24.1) and 23rd in punts (7.2).

“We just were timing up those wedges. Those guys are already awesome. I’m finding myself not having to teach them a lot, little corrections here and there,” Cribbs said. “They’re telling me what they see. We’re all getting on one accord. It’s not going to be like the preseason on Sunday. I

“It’s going to be like we’ve been together for years and that’s how it should be.”

If he can be like he was years ago, he might be able to sense playoff football for the first time in his career.

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