BEREA — Though Phil Dawson long ago established himself as the best kicker in Browns history, he has never played in the Pro Bowl.
Cleveland punter Reggie Hodges is doing his best to change that.
Hodges has launched a “Dawson 4 Pro Bowl” campaign on his Twitter page, encouraging Browns fans to cast as many votes as possible for Dawson at www.nfl.com/probowl.
“I respect Phil so much, and he deserves to be in the Pro Bowl this season,” Hodges said Friday following practice. “He’s been doing this for 14 years and he’s been doing it in the worst conditions.
“Cleveland Browns Stadium is the toughest place in the NFL to kick, by far. Chicago is a distant second. For him to be 21-of-21 on field goals and 5-of-5 from 40-49 yards, that’s incredible. Nobody is doing that.”
Dawson, who is also 20-of-20 on extra points, will put his perfect season on the line Sunday when Cleveland plays at the Oakland Raiders. The conditions at O.com Coliseum are expected to be rainy and water-logged, but coach Pat Shurmur said he won’t hesitate using Dawson early and often.
“I think he’s been a Pro Bowl-quality kicker for a very long time,” Shurmur said. “I think people understand when we put Phil out there, we’ve got a really good chance of making the kick.”
Unfortunately for Dawson, his national profile remains low, which explains why he is not among the AFC’s top five vote-getters at the position. Those honors belong to Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski (90,523), Baltimore’s Justin Tucker (60,060), New England’s Stephen Gostkowski (60,014), Denver’s Matt Prater (40,466), and Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham (31,990).
Janikowski also owns the second-best field-goal percentage in the NFL at .958, making 23-of-24 with his only miss coming from 64 yards out.
Fan balloting runs through Dec. 17 and counts one-third toward determining the AFC and NFC Pro Bowl rosters, as does voting by coaches and players.
“I appreciate everything that Reggie is doing for me, and I know he’s having a lot of fun with it,” said Dawson, who ranks sixth in NFL history with an .841 career field-goal percentage and stands 31st all time with 1,238 points.
“Winning has always been the most important thing to me, which is why making the Pro Bowl isn’t a make-or-break thing as far as how I look at my career,” Dawson said. “But it has obviously been a goal of mine for a long time.”
The 37-year-old Texan broke into a sly smile before adding, “With a family of five, free vacations are also highly sought after events. That’s another consideration here.”
Browns safeties Usama Young (concussion) and Ray “Bubba” Ventrone (calf), and cornerback Dimitri Patterson (left high ankle sprain) have been declared out for the Raiders game.
Undrafted rookie Tashaun Gipson will make his second straight start in place of Young at free safety.
“I can’t even fathom the words to say how excited I am about this opportunity,” Gipson said. “I’m extremely blessed just to be part of the NFL and playing for this team.”
Wide receiver Joshua Cribbs (shoulder, chest) and safety Eric Hagg (illness) are questionable, but Shurmur said Cribbs should be able to play and return punts and kicks.
• For Oakland, defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee, hamstring), defensive end Jack Crawford (toe), and linebacker Rolando McClain are out. McClain was suspended two games by Raiders coach Dennis Allen for conduct detrimental to the team.
Running backs Darren McFadden (ankle) and Mike Goodson (ankle) are both questionable, but expected to play.
Cribbs continues to lead the Pro Bowl voting among AFC special teams players with 52,880 votes. Houston’s Bryan Braman is second with 41,524.
Two-time Pro Bowl honoree Cribbs is second at kick returner with 63,567, trailing Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones at 80,278.
D’Qwell Jackson is second at inside linebacker with 78,700, but that puts him well behind New England’s Jerod Mayo (191,989).
Five-time Pro Bowl selection Joe Thomas is a distant fifth at tackle with 79,075 votes. Miami’s Jake Long is the leader at 133,326.
The NFL only discloses the top five players at each position in fan balloting, and only does so to media members who specifically request them.
Bill Macatee and Steve Tasker will be behind the mic for CBS’ coverage of the Browns/Raiders game. It will only be broadcast in seven markets: Cleveland and Toledo; Medford, Ore.; Reno, Nev.; and Chico, Eureka and Fresno, Calif.
• There is limited ticket availability for the Browns’ final two home games against Kansas City (Dec. 9) and Washington (Dec. 16).
• Cornerback Coye Francies — a sixth-round draft pick by Cleveland in 2009 — leads Oakland with a 24.6-yard average on kickoff returns.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
• WHO: Cleveland vs. Oakland
• WHEN: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
• WHERE: O.co Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
• TV/RADIO: Channel 19; WMMS 100.7-FM, WTAM 1100-AM