- 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:
Browns fans who attended Ozzie Newsome's speaking engagement in Cleveland on Monday don't consider the current Ravens general manager/former Browns tight end "a traitor," according to those interviewed by the Akron Beacon Journal.
Newsome enjoyed 13 seasons and a Hall of Fame career with the Browns. He didn't play for another team, but he left with owner Art Modell when the Browns relocated to Baltimore in 1996.
Newsome, who became the NFL's first African-American general manager, said he isn’t sure he would have received the same opportunity if he had remained in Cleveland when the Browns returned in 1999.
“I don’t know if that would have happened because a whole new administration came in with Carmen [Policy] and Dwight [Clark], a San Francisco crew,” Newsome told fans, according to the Beacon Journal. “I don’t know if I would have had a chance to be part of that. A lot of you would have wanted that to happen, but when Carmen came in, he had the keys to the car and he wanted to build the front office the way he wanted.”
Hensley's slant: Newsome is right. He probably wouldn't have ascended to the general manager's role as quickly if he chose to stay in Cleveland. But just think of how the fortunes of the two franchises would have changed if Newsome didn't leave with the Ravens and eventually worked his way up to being the Browns' top decision-maker. Baltimore probably wouldn't have won a Super Bowl in 2000, and Cleveland likely wouldn't be a perennial last-place team.
BENGALS: Jacob Bell acknowledged that his contract influenced his retirement, along with the risks of playing the sport. Bell, 31, who was a Bengals guard for a little over a month before announcing his retirement last week, signed with Cincinnati this offseason for $890,000 after being released by the Rams. Sports Illustrated's Peter King asked Bell if he would have retired under his previous $6 million contract with the Rams. "That's a very good question,'' he said. "And therein lies the problem. How can you say when you're being offered so much money, the kind of money that can secure your future, to play football? So of course it played a role." Hensley's slant: A majority of hardcore football fans didn't even know Bell was in the league despite making 100 starts. Now, his name will be remembered as the player who decided to quit the game because of health concerns. But, as Bell acknowledged, you should also remember that it would have been difficult for him to walk away from a $6 million paycheck no matter what the risks.
RAVENS: Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata told the team's official website that he stayed away from the game and workouts for a month after the Ravens' AFC championship loss at New England. “This year was probably the hardest, the worst I’ve felt at the end of the season,” Ngata said. “We went further and I think I played more snaps this year than other years. This past season took a lot out of me. And that loss just kind of sucked, so it took a little bit more.” Hensley's slant: The strange part of the article is that the team's website referred to Ngata undergoing a "procedure" after the season, but there are no details given to what was repaired or whether it will sideline him for offseason workouts. Ngata previously said he played with a thigh injury for the majority of the 2011 season and didn't play in the Pro Bowl because of the injury. He has been one of the most durable defensive tackles in the NFL, missing two games in six seasons.
STEELERS: No new news is still not good news for the Pittsburgh Steelers. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter said on Tuesday's "NFL Live" that "it may be awhile" before wide receiver Mike Wallace reports to Steelers headquarters, which essentially was Wallace's stance last month. Wallace has yet to sign his $2.7 million restricted free-agent tender. The Steelers could reduce that tender to $577,000 if he doesn't sign it by June 15. Hensley's slant: It would be a surprise to see Wallace show up for the offseason workouts. It would also be a surprise to see the Steelers reduce his tender. Pittsburgh would like to see its top receiver learning Todd Haley's new offensive scheme, but the Steelers also don't want to create a rift with a player they want to sign long-term. Wallace will probably report to the Steelers for the start of training camp.