- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman disputed speculation that Minnesota bluffed the Cleveland Browns out of three draft picks in the first round.
Believing there was at least one other team interested in leapfrogging them for Trent Richardson, the Browns traded picks in the fourth, fifth and seventh rounds to move up one spot to No. 3 for the Alabama running back. There have been questions whether there was another team involved.
Did the Vikings dupe the Browns?
"We did have offers on the table, I can tell you that," Spielman told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I'm not going to tell you who or what. But I will say Cleveland did the right thing."
Hensley's slant: The Browns absolutely did the right thing. If they believed there was a chance that they could lose Richardson, they had to make that deal. Cleveland got beat out for quarterback Robert Griffin III last month. The Browns couldn't risk losing out on another elite playmaker.
BENGALS: Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga said he will play much better this season after having his ankle surgically repaired in January. He severely sprained it while leaping for a pass in practice on Oct. 13. Maualuga missed the next three games and wasn't the same when he returned. "I started out pretty good and then being off four weeks, including the bye, I don't want to make excuses, but it made me scared," Maualuga told the team's official website. "Are these guys going to try and chop block me? Are they going to try and take my legs out? I was in a fetal position so they don’t get to my ankles. It's like I was playing scared." Hensley's slant: The Bengals need a healthy and aggressive Maualuga in the middle of the defense. You could see the Bengals' run defense decline when Maualuga wasn't at full strength.
RAVENS: Left tackle Bryant McKinnie has been participating in some of the team's voluntary offseason conditioning workouts, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron told the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "We're in contact with him," Cameron said. "He's been in and out of town. I haven't seen him a lot. All things are positive. We're going to get him back and ready to go. It will be nice to have him this offseason. We'll get him for 10 organized team activities and three days of minicamp. Those are the most important things." Hensley's slant: McKinnie is living up to the agreement that he'll be in better shape after finishing the season at 360 pounds. That was the reason the Ravens paid him a $500,000 roster bonus in March. But the team can't be thrilled with the fact that McKinnie is only attending "some" of the workouts.
STEELERS: Chris Rainey is being reunited with Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey after Pittsburgh drafted the Florida running back in the fifth round. Rainey, who was born when his mother was locked up in a Florida jail, lived with Pouncey and his family in high school. "He's a good guy, he has a great heart," Florida running backs coach Brian White told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I think it's great Maurkice will be up there with him, showing him what it takes to be a pro." Hensley's slant: Rainey slipped in the draft because of character concerns. As long as Rainey stays out of trouble -- and Pouncey should help in this area -- he will add a spark to the Steelers' offense and special teams. He's an electric playmaker.