CINCINNATI -- At the close of their first day of training camp, the Cincinnati Bengals made a series of roster moves that included signing two players, releasing another and placing a fourth on the active physically unable to perform list.

Britt
Whitworth
Pro Bowl offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth was the PUP list addition, the result of a calf injury. Like the rest of the PUP list players, he counts against the team's roster limit and can be activated to practice as soon as he's cleared medically.

Whitworth wasn't the only one who sat out Thursday's practice. Tight end Jermaine Gresham (back), quarterback AJ McCarron (shoulder), offensive lineman Mike Pollak (knee), receivers Marvin Jones (ankle) and Ryan Whalen (hamstring), linebacker Marquis Flowers (hamstring), and defensive tackles Devon Still (back) and Zach Minter (back) also didn't practice. Each had been placed on the active PUP or active non-football injury lists before training camp began.

While the Bengals were making those injury designations, they also made alterations to their roster. Backup punter T.J. Conley, who was signed earlier this offseason to primarily give the Bengals an extra practice body to keep starting punter Kevin Huber's leg fresh, was released. In a corresponding move, they added two receivers, Jeremy Johnson and Conner Vernon, who was acquired from Cleveland after clearing waivers.

Johnson is a rookie from SMU who signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent last month. He was released by New England on July 17.

Vernon entered the NFL in 2013, signing with the Raiders as an undrafted player. He had four catches for 42 yards in four preseason games last year before getting cut the final weekend of camp. He was signed by the Browns on Dec. 26, and remained part of their offseason roster.

With Jones and Whalen out for now, the Bengals needed a pair of receivers to take their places until they return. Although Johnson and Vernon will try to make the 53-man roster, they were added primarily for camp depth concerns.
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OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There has been sweeping criticism since news broke Thursday that Baltimore running back Ray Rice was suspended for two games after he allegedly knocked his then-fiancée unconscious this offseason.

Two games? That amounts to losing Rice to a tweaked hamstring.

But the sole argument shouldn't be that the NFL was too easy on Rice. It's also a fact the league hasn't been harsher on domestic violence issues in the past.

Rice's punishment only falls in line with the league's disappointing track record on this issue.

[+] EnlargeRice
Rob Carr/Getty Images"My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident," Ray Rice said in a statement.
There's a precedent for first-time offenders like Rice. Many first-time offenders don't get a suspension of any kind, and many get suspended for less than a month if they are disciplined. In the past three years, only 12 players received more than four-game suspensions, and all violated league policy multiple times.

What worked in Rice's favor is Janay Palmer standing by his side in court, at his debacle of a news conference in May and at his face-to-face meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Palmer even married Rice a day after he was indicted by a grand jury in March on third-degree aggravated assault.

This isn't being an apologist for Rice. Goodell simply followed form.

"I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career," Goodell said in a letter to Rice.

Goodell certainly could have delivered a stronger message with Rice and made an example out of him for the rest of the league's players. But if Goodell had suspended Rice for eight games or the entire season, it would be difficult to see that punishment sticking.

Rice would have undoubtedly appealed a harsher suspension because no first-time offender of domestic violence has ever received such a punishment. He could cite two former Ravens, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams, who were suspended a combined three games after being charged with domestic violence. Rice could point to the discipline handed out to wide receiver Brandon Marshall in 2008, when the Denver Broncos wide receiver was suspended only three games (later reduced to one) after multiple domestic disputes.

Rice's punishment goes beyond the suspension and fine. It includes the tarnishing of his reputation. For six years, he had worked hard to build his character in the locker room and the community, becoming the spokesman for the area's anti-bullying campaign.

Now, Rice will be forever linked to domestic violence. Opposing fans won't let him forget about it whenever he walks into another team's stadium. Even fans in Baltimore will have trouble looking at Rice without thinking about that TMZ video in which he dragged Janay out of the elevator.

"As I said earlier, I failed in many ways," Rice said in a statement. “My goal is to earn back the trust of the people, especially the children, I let down because of this incident. I am a role model and I take that responsibility seriously. My actions going forward will show that.”

Domestic violence isn't isolated to the Ravens or Rice. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune database, 21 of 32 teams last year had a player on their roster who had a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record.

Perhaps until the league changes its sorry track record on this issue, it will continue to be a widespread problem in the league.
Impressionist Frank Caliendo stopped by ESPN.com’s NFL Nation TV Thursday and offered hilarious takes in different voices on the current state of the NFL, joining host Paul Gutierrez (Oakland Raiders reporter), co-host Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Kevin Seifert (NFL national reporter).

Caliendo broke out many of his impressions, including his staple of staples, John Madden, and advised life-of-the-party rookie Johnny Manziel to keep on partying, in Madden’s voice, like Madden’s Raiders of the 1970s did as one of the league’s dominant teams of the era, both on and off the field.

Earlier in the day on ESPN Radio’s "Mike and Mike" show, Caliendo read LeBron James’ letter to the fans, his reason for returning to Cleveland, in the voice of Morgan Freeman. Caliendo shared some of it on the Spreecast as well.

Other NFL personalities Caliendo did impressions of included what is now his newest staple, Jon Gruden, while briefly taking the show into a Gruden family reunion and reminiscing on Harry Potter’s school of Hogwarts. He also did Will Ferrell doing Harry Caray.

Caliendo, who has had his own television show in the past, said he stopped counting how many voices he has in his repertoire, though it’s been reported he has at least 120 impressions, from former president George W. Bush to Mike Ditka, which he said is all about chewing gum and putting his index finger above his lip as a mustache. He wants to add a Peyton Manning impression, saying there’s some “Elvis” in the five-time NFL MVP’s voice.

And yes, Caliendo did some Charles Barkley while discussing how he comes up with ideas for impressions. Caliendo was on the show for 20 minutes.

Other topics discussed by Gutierrez, Harvey and Seifert included Ray Rice getting a reported two-game suspension, Tony Dungy’s recent assertion that he would not draft the openly gay Michael Sam because he would be too big a distraction, and a new home for the Raiders.

The show can be watched here:

 
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell officially announced a two-game suspension for Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.

Rice
Rice
Rice’s suspension will begin on August 30. He will be eligible for reinstatement on Monday, September 12, following the Ravens’ game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rice may participate in all aspects of training camp and preseason games.

Rice may appeal this decision within three days.

In a letter to Rice, Goodell stated:

“As you acknowledged during our meeting, your conduct was unquestionably inconsistent with league polices and the standard of behavior required of everyone who is part of the NFL. The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence and other forms of violence against women.

“You will be expected to continue to take advantage of the counseling and other professional services you identified during our meeting. As you noted, this additional assistance has been of significant benefit to you and your wife, and it should remain a part of your practice as appropriate.

“I believe that you are sincere in your desire to learn from this matter and move forward toward a healthy relationship and successful career. I am now focused on your actions and expect you to demonstrate by those actions that you are prepared to fulfill those expectations.”
Johnny Manziel on Wednesday reported for his first professional training camp with the Cleveland Browns' rookies, quarterbacks and other players recovering from injury, which means for Manziel and the Manziel-watchers in the world, things get really real immediately.

Manziel will compete with Brian Hoyer to be the team’s starter, but Hoyer is the starter heading into camp.

How does Manziel win the job?

  1. [+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
    Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesKnowing the playbook and protecting the ball will be crucial for Johnny Manziel in training camp.
    Be a gamer:
    NFL football is quite the interesting phenomenon. Players spend hours in meetings, they lift weights, they work out, they practice for hours and then they watch every single play of practice. And whether they make the team or don’t comes down to a handful of plays in the third quarter of a practice game with the stands half full. Practice makes perfect, but how Manziel performs in a game will determine whether he starts. That means executing the offense with precision, and showing the knowledge required to read, understand and attack an NFL defense -- vanilla as it will be in preseason. Practices will matter, but the most important days of Manziel’s first training camp will be in Detroit and Washington in the practice games.
  2. Be ready: Know the playbook and the plays and the calls and the reads. There is not time for learning on the fly anymore. Jobs are at stake at every position on the field, and the team can’t live with an uncertain quarterback botching the plays. This work had to be done in the offseason, and if Manziel didn’t do it there will be issues.
  3. Don’t throw away a single rep: It would be interesting if every profession operated the way NFL teams do. Imagine the cashier filmed for every transaction, the placement of hands while giving change, the way he or she scans items. Imagine if the lawyer were videoed during every argument, an accountant during a tax audit. NFL players have every play, every snap scrutinized. If they mess up on the field, they hear about it after -- and they watch it. Manziel can’t afford half-hearted plays or silly mistakes. He needs to be aware, smart and careful. It’s not easy while trying to learn a new offense and teammates, but that is what is expected. There are no throwaway plays in training camp.
  4. Protect the ball: Mike Pettine is a studier of the game, and he no doubt knows that a team that does not turn the ball over has a better chance to win. Since 1999, the year of the Browns' return, teams that had a turnover margin of plus-two in a game won 88 percent of the time (per profootballreference.com). Teams that had one more turnover than the opposition won 79 percent of the time. The fastest way for a quarterback to be shown the bench -- especially a rookie -- is to turn the ball over frequently in camp and in preseason games (vanilla defenses come to mind).
  5. Ditch the parties; act like a professional: It might not be necessary to state this, because Manziel might have this planned regardless. But what has become clear about Manziel since he joined the Browns is that he knows how to have a good time. From town to town and beverage to beverage, he was a regular presence on the Internet. Manziel is not innocent in this either; he willingly posed or posted some of the photos. He can still enjoy himself, but nobody who puts the fun ahead of his profession succeeds in the long run. At this point, it’s up to Manziel to show his teammates and his team that the parties were simply an offseason pursuit.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- If the Ravens want to improve the efficiency of their passing game, quarterback Joe Flacco has to build a rapport with new wide receiver Steve Smith.

So, as Baltimore Ravens training camp opens Thursday, Smith was asked where the chemistry stands with Flacco.

Smith
"Do you want me to lie to you or tell you the truth?," Smith asked.

When the reporter said the truth, Smith said, "Honestly, for me, I’ve been catching passes for quarterbacks for a lot of years, and I’ve been running routes for a lot of years. If you throw me the ball, there’s no chemistry. You throw me the ball [and if] it’s catchable, I’m going to snag it. That’s what practice is going to be there for. Practice is there to make mistakes, to understand what I need to do and how Joe operates. Then, my job at the end of the day is to make him look good.”

Where Smith needs to make Flacco look good is on the intermediate routes.

Since 2011, Smith has caught 99 passes of at least 15 yards, which is the third-most in the NFL over that span. Last season, the Ravens had 77 completions of at least 15 yards, which was the seventh-fewest in the league.

Flacco said he's been most impressed with Smith's ability to catch the ball.

"He catches everything with his hands, and he does a great job doing it," Flacco said. "He is strong to the ball, even though he’s not very high in stature. He is just strong to the ball and his hands are really, really good.”

Steve Smith's effectiveness in the intermediate routes should compliment Torrey Smith's ability to catch passes deep downfield.

When asked what type of combination he makes with Torrey Smith, Steve Smith said, "I think you can call us, ‘The Law Firm: Smith, Smith & Associates.’”

Did Steve Smith just come up with that nickname?

“I’m pretty quick-witted, so I did actually come up with that."
PITTSBURGH -- He still uses his GPS to make his way around Pittsburgh, but rookie inside linebacker Ryan Shazier didn’t need nearly as much navigational assistance when he was on the Pittsburgh Steelers practice fields in late May and June.

Shazier started alongside Lawrence Timmons from the outset of offseason practices, and he looked anything but lost despite learning a new defense on the run.

[+] EnlargeRyan Shazier
Joe Sargent/Getty ImagesRookie linebacker Ryan Shazier was a star in minicamp, but will his progress continue when the pads come on?
“He understands concepts very well,” linebackers coach Keith Butler said of the Steelers’ first-round draft pick. “He reminds me a lot of Larry Foote in terms of football intelligence, and he’s a very sharp guy.”

Not that Shazier will be exempt from the requisite rookie growing pains. Or that Butler wouldn’t prefer the Steelers easing the former Ohio State All-American into the NFL.

That is not an option in large part because Shazier’s speed and playmaking ability are both badly needed on a defense that slipped appreciably last season. Shazier, the Steelers’ most significant addition during the offseason, made it look easy at times during offseason practices. He turned in a couple of breathtaking plays, including a leaping interception of a pass that backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski thought he could throw over Shazier in the middle of the field.

The caveat with how good Shazier has looked: the 6-1, 237-pounder has only practiced with the Steelers in shorts. That changes Monday, when the Steelers don the pads at training camp following two non-contact practices.

If Shazier makes the same kind of progress at camp as he did during offseason drills he will start Sept. 7 in the season opener against the visiting Browns.

Here are the four other significant additions that the Steelers made during the offseason.

Offensive line coach Mike Munchak. The Steelers have too often fielded suspect offensive lines under coach Mike Tomlin, though constant injuries up front haven’t helped. A line that came together in the second half of last season will start a pair of former first-round draft picks and two second-round selections. Nobody is more qualified to bring the group together then Munchak. There are no excuses this season -- unless mass injuries consistently scramble the line.

S Mike Mitchell. As with Shazier, the Steelers added speed and a playmaker when they signed Mitchell to a five-year, $25 million contract in March. They badly needed both elements on the back end of their defense, and Mitchell will be a significant upgrade over Ryan Clark at free safety. He has aspirations of becoming one of the best safeties in the NFL, and the Steelers would love to see Mitchell achieve that goal in Pittsburgh.

RB/WR Dri Archer. The Steelers added a bolt of lightning to their offense when they drafted the ultra-fast Archer in the third round. He will return kickoffs and could allow the Steelers to relieve Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown of his duties as the primary punt returner. Archer’s speed and versatility gives offensive coordinator Todd Haley the kind of player he can use to exploit mismatches. If Archer is Chris Rainey 2.0 the Steelers will be more than happy with the investment they have made in the former Kent State star.

OLB Arthur Moats. The former Buffalo Bill has starting experience and versatility and gives the Steelers a promising option should there be injuries or ineffective play at outside linebacker. Moats can also play inside, though the Steelers are pretty deep there, and he is expected to establish himself as a core special-teams player. The importance of depth in the NFL can't be overstated, and the Steelers improved themselves in that area with the signing of Moats.
The party's over for Johnny Manziel.

[+] EnlargeJohnny Manziel
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Browns would do well to give Johnny Manziel time to develop instead of thrusting him in as a starter.
The offseason of Vegas-Austin-Mexico-Los Angeles clubs and beverages/bottles has concluded. The social media photos with rolled bills are complete. Manziel reported for his first NFL training camp on Wednesday in Cleveland to try to become the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback. On Thursday, workouts begin. It's not exactly a brave new world for the Browns' first-round draft pick -- he did manage himself quite well in college during the season while having a good time in the offseason, thank you very much -- but it is a more challenging situation than anything he has dealt with in his life. The young wunderkind who was simply always better than those around him finds himself at a whole new level, having to earn his place in the world of professionals.

But while attention will be focused on his every move, his coach has made no secret he'd prefer Manziel not be the team's immediate starter. Coach Mike Pettine told SI.com that in his "ideal world," Manziel would not start on opening day.

Go figure.

The Browns, a team in need of a new image, excite the area and the football world by drafting the most exciting player eligible, and they want him to wait.

But there's sound logic and strong precedent behind Pettine's thinking.

He talks about success stories for people who wait to start -- Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer -- and compares them to guys he has seen rushed into the starting lineup too soon -- Kyle Boller -- for a team not good enough to support them.

That's a scenario Cleveland fans know all too well, as they have seen quarterback after quarterback forced into the lineup, only to struggle with a bad team and fail: Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Charlie Frye and Brandon Weeden among them.

The other cycle that has been repeated in Cleveland is that a quarterback ballyhooed as a savior watches as the team drafts another. The public and media -- and eventually the team -- grow weary of the first "savior" struggling because the team is not equipped to help him. This starts the clamor for the next guy. He then is rushed in and struggles for the same reasons the first guy did.

Savior after savior has flamed out, quickly. Heck, a year ago in Cleveland, Jason Campbell was briefly considered a savior. He finished 1-7 as a starter.

"It's a bad cycle," Pettine said, "until you get the team around him."

Pettine has to balance a lot, starting with hype and expectation (multiplied exponentially because it's Manziel) that comes with any quarterback drafted in the first round. But he also has to balance what he has seen -- that a quarterback will struggle if the team around him struggles.

"There's no doubt [the quarterback is] the most important guy on the field," Pettine said. "But he's so much the product of his supporting cast."

In many past years, the Browns built the team from the inside out. Start with the quarterback and hope to add pieces. It can work, but the danger in that process showed constantly as a lack of a supporting cast left each young quarterback battered, shell-shocked and fragile.

Pettine wants to build from the outside in while still working with the best quarterback he can find.

That's why in the offseason the Browns rebuilt the running game with personnel and system. It is why they bolstered the offensive line, and why they've implemented a defensive scheme that has been successful everywhere it has been used. It's also why they brought in prominent defensive veterans Donte Whitner and Karlos Dansby, guys used to winning who might change the vibe in a locker room accustomed to losing.

The final piece was a quarterback to compete with Brian Hoyer. In Manziel, the Browns got a guy who threw for 7,800 yards and 63 touchdowns at Texas A&M, a guy who for whatever reason has become a social media phenomenon.

"I don't think even he can get a handle on the why," Pettine said

At this point in his NFL career, Manziel has done nothing but be successful in college. As any Browns fan can attest, college success and/or a college resume does not automatically translate to wins in the NFL.

Pettine said Manziel was a great teammate in the previous time he was in Cleveland, calling him "very humble." The typical litany of positives followed: good in the weight room, attentive in meetings, smart.

Pettine then added this tidbit: "I think he's ahead of the learning curve."

In the world of hype, parsing and interpreting what has formed around Manziel, that comment would translate on the conversion chart to: "Holy smokes this guy is good."

But there are many factors at play, not the least of which are the beliefs and principles of the head coach. In organized team activities and minicamps, Manziel had his moments but never consistently looked like a no-brainer to be the starter. He never played like a guy who immediately had to be put in the lineup. Manziel himself admitted the Browns' offense is a lot more complex than the one he ran in college, where he didn't even have a playbook. There's the reality that the Browns open in Pittsburgh and then play at home against the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens. Those are three very tough, physical and aggressive defenses that might make a team hesitate to start a rookie.

Two things are steadfastly true, though. First is that if Manziel doesn't turn out the lights, his on-field party will be over. Because he won't be able to succeed on the field if he's living the extreme high life off it. Pettine said he expects the off-field to be a "non-story" soon.

The second is that Pettine is determined to not give Manziel the job simply because of who he is.

"It's very simple for us," Pettine said. "Who gives us the best chance to win?"
PITTSBURGH – Derek Moye spent all of last season on the Steelers' 53-man roster and two of the wide receivers ahead of the Penn State product signed with other teams during the offseason.

Moye
Despite this, it is hard not to wonder if Moye actually lost ground in his bid to make an impact this season. Moye, as it turns out, will have a hard time simply making the team again because of the crowd that the Steelers have at wide receiver.

They signed veterans Lance Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey in March and drafted Clemson’s Martavis Bryant in the fourth round. The Steelers also saw 2013 sixth-round pick Justin Brown, who spent last season on their practice squad, make a significant jump during offseason practices.

So where does all of that leave Moye? Pretty much in the same position as last season when the former undrafted free agent had to play his way onto the 53-man roster.

“That’s the way it is,” Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said. “He knows that. Each time he gets on the field he gets better. He has a chance.”

The good news for Moye, who caught just two passes for 25 yards and a touchdown last season, is that the competition at wide receiver won’t really start until Monday when the Steelers wear pads for the first time.

Also, the 6-foot-4, 210-pounder made the team last season after entering camp as a long shot. There is no reason to think Moye can’t do it again with another strong camp and playing well in the preseason games.

Here are four other players who also need to flash during training camp.

OLB Chris Carter. The Steelers’ lack of depth at outside linebacker gives the 2011 fifth-round draft pick an inside track to making the 53-man roster. But Carter is vulnerable because he played primarily on special teams in three seasons and has yet to record a sack for the Steelers. Carter received praise from linebackers coach Keith Butler during offseason practices. He has to show the Steelers during camp that he can play extensive snaps at outside linebacker in the event of an injury.

TE David Paulson. He has just 13 catches for 153 yards in two seasons and Paulson isn’t going to make the team as a blocking tight end. The 2012 seventh-round pick has to show he can become a bigger part of the passing game as he is a prime candidate to fall victim to a numbers crunch. The Steelers return four tight ends from last season and they added to the position by drafting Rob Blanchflower in the seventh round and signing Eric Waters as an undrafted free agent.

DE Nick Williams. Williams did very little during offseason practices because he was still recovering from a knee injury he sustained almost a year ago. The Steelers like Williams’ potential but the 6-4, 309-pounder needs to get on the field during camp and get as much work as possible at a position that is hard for young players to master. The Steelers, meanwhile, need an end to emerge from a young group that includes Williams, Brian Arnfelt and undrafted free agent Josh Mauro.

P Brad Wing. His talent is undeniable and the Steelers think he has matured since going undrafted out of LSU in 2013 and failing to make the Philadelphia Eagles’ team last season. That he is a lefty helps – coach Mike Tomlin seems to prefer those kinds of punters – but Wing has to beat out veteran Adam Podlesh, who signed a one-year contract with the Steelers in April. Since Podlesh has a track record in the NFL Wing will have to clearly outplay him in training camp and preseason games to make the team.
CINCINNATI -- When he saw his big outside linebacker loaded onto a cart and leaving the Cincinnati Bengals' final 2013 preseason game in obvious pain, for one split second, Paul Guenther felt lost.

"I almost fainted," the assistant coach recalled earlier this week.

[+] EnlargeVontaze Burfict
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesBengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said LB Emmanuel Lamur, No. 59, is high on skill and smarts.
Exactly 11 months and six days ago, Guenther and the rest of Cincinnati's coaching staff were left wondering where they ought to turn as the haunting reality began to settle in: Emmanuel Lamur, one of their top cover linebackers and most knowledgeable young defenders, was lost for the season. A shoulder injury in the first quarter of the preseason finale against Indianapolis led to their concern, and forced Guenther's stomach to churn.

What a difference time can make.

Now a year later and some weeks shy of another series of preseason games, Guenther, the former Bengals linebackers coach who was elevated to defensive coordinator earlier this offseason, is excitedly welcoming a fully healed Lamur back into the fold.

"There's a lot of things you can do with him," Guenther said. "He can play safety, he can cover tight ends. And as we all know now in the league there are a lot of pass-receiving tight ends that we're going to face, particularly probably in the first ball game."

Along with facing in Week 1 Baltimore's Dennis Pitta, who also will be returning from his own serious injury, the Bengals are set to see tight ends Jordan Cameron, Delanie Walker, Jimmy Graham, Rob Gronkowski, Julius Thomas, Coby Fleener, Greg Olsen and Heath Miller, among others this year. Cameron, Graham, Olsen and Thomas were among the top 8 receiving tight ends last season, and despite missing more than half the season, Gronkowski wasn't too far down the list, either, ranking 14th. As a frame of reference, the Bengals' top tight ends, Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert, were 22nd and 24th despite having played 14 and 15 games, respectively.

With a lineup full of that many well-regarded tight ends, the Bengals will take all the help they can to cover them.

Hence, Guenther's happiness over Lamur's return.

Safety Taylor Mays, who spent part of the first few weeks of last regular season filling Lamur's shoes before his own injury, also could be an option for the Bengals in certain tight end-defensive back matchups. He has the type of athleticism and size that makes him a better fit for such coverage assistance than any other Bengals safety. That's one of the many reasons the veteran, who could be considered on the 53-man bubble, actually has a shot to make it onto the full roster.

Back to Lamur. Along with assisting in coverage downfield, Guenther lauded the linebacker's intelligence. Vontaze Burfict, who will continue making calls and checks at the line this season, knows Guenther's defense better than any other player, the coach said. But he quickly added that Lamur wasn't far behind. With a chance to get back on the field and play this fall, Guenther believes Lamur's football intelligence will only increase.

"He gives you great ability to change the look of the fronts," Guenther said. "He's a smart player. He's a player who knows the defense. Maybe not as much as Burfict because he was out last year, but he's that kind of guy that understands the big picture. Having him back is a big advantage for us."
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Brian Hoyer took a grand total of five days off this offseason.

He probably would have done the exact same thing had the Cleveland Browns not taken Johnny Manziel in the first round of the NFL draft.

"He's a gym rat," coach Mike Pettine said.

The phrase is timeworn, but accurate. Because it sums up the work ethic and dedication of the Cleveland-area kid trying to hold off the challenge of the first-round pick to live his dream of starting for his hometown team.

In the team's first minicamp before the draft, Hoyer was a confident guy, talking about the Browns being his team until he was told otherwise. The night of the draft, he was part of the Manziel maelstrom, and affected by it much more personally than anyone. By the team's organized team activities, he was saying that the best thing he could do as a teammate would be to be the best quarterback he could be. By the end of OTAs, he was eager and anxious to have limitations removed as he recovers from a torn knee ligament that ended a promising 2013 season too soon. In the time between minicamp and training camp, he took a brief respite from rehab and work. But only a brief one.

He enters training camp as the Browns' starter, but he's as aware as anyone what it means to not only be competing with a first-round draft pick, but a first-round pick with significant cachet, resume and achievements.

Pettine, though, has seen no sign that any of the public chatter over Manziel has affected Hoyer.

"I think he's confident," Pettine said, "and I think he's getting his confidence through his preparation."

Which is where it all begins and ends with Hoyer, who learned from the best as Tom Brady's backup. Last season when he had three starts, he talked about being as prepared as he could be. This offseason, with or without Manziel, he's taken the same approach.

The Browns believe Manziel's presence will help Hoyer, will make him better by forging his competitive juices and focusing his already-strong drive.

"The alternative would be that we didn't draft Manziel and we took somebody in the fifth round," Pettine said. "Would Brian Hoyer be as good then as he would be after taking Manziel and having to deal with the circumstances that we're in?"

It's one of his core foundations -- competition makes people better. He has that at running back with Terrance West and Ben Tate, at cornerback with Justin Gilbert and Buster Skrine, at guard with four guys fighting for two spots. And at quarterback.

"There's no substitute for it, and there's no better motivator than competition," Pettine said. "If you're not willing to compete, then you shouldn't be here."

Hoyer seems to relish it. On a recent radio interview on ESPN's "Mike & Mike," he called the drafting of Manziel "a relief" because he then understood what he was facing. Manziel has talked about wanting to start, but while Hoyer has been spending time with his family and children, Manziel has been on the party circuit. Whether that matters remains to be seen.

Pettine does not hide from the reality of what it means to take a quarterback in the first round, especially one like Manziel. But he also understands why he was hired.

"We can't lose sight as a staff that it's very simple for us: Who gives us the best chance to win this coming Sunday?" he said.

He points out that nobody from the Browns on draft night said they had drafted their starting quarterback.

"There's so much credibility when he earns it on the field," Pettine said. "Sure, [Manziel] comes in here with an incredible background of being a playmaker and having success. But there's the question of getting it to translate to the NFL level.

"We're confident that will happen. That's the reason we took him. But at the same time we feel we have a quarterback here in Brian who can win games for us."

Pettine values mental toughness. And Hoyer has shown no sign of being rattled or shaken by the hoopla over the rookie. In fact, it might have honed his desire.

"To me," Pettine said, "you have to be the strongest guy on the field mentally if you're the quarterback. To me, if he had issues with that mentally then you would question, ‘Does he have the wherewithal to be an NFL quarterback?' If he's going to let that bother him, you would question it.

"I'm not worried about it. I think that cream rises to the top."
CINCINNATI -- As the news of longtime owner Pat Bowlen's departure from the Denver Broncos made headlines early Wednesday, I was reminded of a few comments Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown made about his own ownership status just Tuesday.

Bowlen, 70, is stepping aside after 30 years while he battles Alzheimer's disease.

The 78-year-old Brown isn't battling with health issues, but there are signs his time in charge of the Bengals has started nearing its end. Daughter Katie Blackburn has in the past few seasons been more of a behind-the-scenes player for the organization, as has head coach Marvin Lewis.

[+] EnlargeKatie Blackburn
AP Photo/Al BehrmanBengals president Mike Brown, left, shown in 2011 with his daughter, executive vice president Katie Blackburn. When Brown, now 78, relinquishes control of the team, Blackburn will take over.
Blackburn's work with recent contract negotiations make it clear she is pulling some of the team's most important strings. Lewis' work with the organization's scouting department has helped Cincinnati have some of the league's best draft classes in recent seasons.

When the day comes that Brown decides to relinquish control, the Bengals are well-placed for a good transition. That is primarily because the transition has been in motion for many years now. When the Bengals were moving into Paul Brown Stadium (named, naturally after Brown's father, the legendary NFL coach) in 2000, they started making it known the organization would one day be Blackburn's to run. Here is a story from June of that year about how Cincinnati was laying the foundation for that transition, written by former Cincinnati Enquirer Bengals reporter Mark Curnutte.

Back to Tuesday and the 47th installment of the Bengals' preseason media luncheon. Just before the event at the stadium, Brown relayed his thoughts on how the transition has gone of late.

"Oh, you can tell I'm getting old," Brown said. "When you get old, your children get impatient with you. Just the way it works in life. I have been blessed to have been able to work with my two kids and my father. That's something that is unusual in America these days, and I realize that roles change. My role changed with my father, just as Katie's role with me changes.

"One time I went up. Now I'm going down and that's just the way it is."

The Bengals have truly been a family organization for the life of their existence. Paul Brown ran the organization in some capacity every year from the time he founded it in 1968 until his death in 1991. Mike Brown has been in charge the 23 years that have followed, and he has been joined in the front office over the years by his brother, Pete, his son, Paul, and Blackburn and her husband Troy Blackburn.

Asked if he felt the transition with his son and daughter has gone as well as the transition between he and his father, Mike Brown said: "I like to think so."

Among the recent decisions he's most proud of, Mike Brown said he was glad he could give Lewis another year on his contract this offseason.

"Marvin's a solid coach and a good guy," Brown said. "I've gotten to know him through thick and thin. He's brought us to a good level. We're a winning team. And when you have that coach that can do that for you, I think you'd be foolish to be unsatisfied with him."

Before Lewis took over as head coach in 2003, the Bengals had gone through six straight losing seasons, and 12 straight seasons where they won eight games or fewer. As Lewis enters his 12th season, the Bengals are hoping to make their sixth playoff berth since 2005, and are looking to build on the nine-, 10- and 11-win totals they have amassed in the past three seasons.
OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The biggest challenge for many rookies is adjusting to the speed of the NFL. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, on the other hand, believes he can speed up his game in training camp.

That's why the Baltimore Ravens' first-round pick has circled Saturday on his schedule. It's the first day of full-contact practices in this year's camp.

[+] EnlargeRavens' C.J. Mosley
AP PhotoRavens first-round pick C.J. Mosley believes that he will be able to play faster in training camp.
“One thing that I always had going into wherever I played at was just me being fast to the ball and making plays in the passing game or running sideline-to-sideline making tackles," Mosley said. "One of the good things when I get in pads, I don’t have to be as slow as I’ve been just in shoulder pads, or just in our shells where you can’t really go as fast or fit up on blockers, things like that. So when we get pads on, it’ll kind of just be free football. You have to execute your plays; at the end of the day you have to be athletic and make your plays. So I feel like when we get in pads, I’ll be able to do that.”

Mosley is coming off an impressive offseason. He has shown good instincts, leaping ability and a strong grasp of the defense.

This is why he was running with the starters in the final practices of the offseason last month. Ravens coach John Harbaugh, though, isn't ready to hand over the starting job to Mosley just yet.

"He’s in a fight now for playing time, and he has a lot to learn," Harbaugh said. "He’s just beginning, so we’ll see where it goes. It’s going to be fun to see. [After] the first week we’ll know a lot more about these guys."

The Ravens already know about Mosley's pedigree. It led them to selecting him with the 17th overall pick in this year's draft.

Mosley won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in 2013 and was the SEC defensive player of the year. He finished as Alabama's leading tackler for a second consecutive season.

"He is a natural, man," quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He looks like he covers ground out there really well. It’ll be interesting, once we get the pads on, to see some of the running backs and [Mosley] and some of our other guys go toe to toe a little bit."

The inside linebacker spot beside Daryl Smith became open this offseason when Jameel McClain, a four-year starter, wasn't re-signed and Rolando McClain flopped in his workout with the Ravens. Mosley will have to hold off Arthur Brown, a second-round pick from a year ago, to become only the third rookie draft pick since 2007 (safety Matt Elam and linebacker Courtney Upshaw were the others) to start a majority of the games.

"The competition is going to start as soon as we get our pads on," Mosley said. "So, I’m just ready to get in pads and show these coaches that they picked me for a reason.”
CINCINNATI -- Bengals president Mike Brown, who very rarely addresses reporters these days, may have decided to discuss quarterback Andy Dalton's looming contract extension before a kickoff luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium on Tuesday, but his head coach is done discussing the issue.

Lewis
Dalton
Dalton
Apparently Dalton is, too.

"We're not going to talk about it anymore, thank you," Lewis said, stopping one questioner who was curious about when the deal needed to get done. "That's the same thing he's [Dalton] going to tell you when he gets to tell you. We've talked enough about it. It'll get settled, and when it gets settled it will be done. We don't need to continue to ask the questions, and I've asked [head of Bengals media relations] Jack [Brennan] to share that with you, to quit asking about it.

"And when the national people come in that aren't here, it's the same thing. We've talked enough about it. It's part of professional sports so just let it go."

Well, there you have it. The public conversations about Dalton's contract are officially over, as far as Lewis is concerned. That sentiment echoes other comments Lewis has made this summer. After spending his availability sessions at the combine and owners' meetings discussing the contract situation, Lewis shied away from talking about it when asked during the end of the organized team activity practices in June.

Dalton is set to make nearly $1.7 million this season, which concludes his rookie contract. He could earn more than $18 million annually on a deal that would put him a little closer to the top of quarterback heap. To that end, he'd arguably be a second-tier quarterback, although he has been regarded a tier 3 quarterback, according to a recent ESPN Insider survey Insider featuring general managers, scouts, players and coaches. ESPN's Ron Jaworski also recently dubbed Dalton the No. 18 player on his list of NFL quarterbacks Insider.

Lewis contends fans don't care about the minutia involved with extensions like Dalton's. He believes they only care once the ink has dried on the contract.

"They only care about it when it's signed," he said. "It will be a big day, so save some space for that."

Maybe that day is on the preseason horizon? If so, Lewis' lips won't be staying sealed on the matter for too long.

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