- 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:
Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall vowed to play this season and didn't rule out being ready for the Sept. 9 season opener in Denver.
“There’s always the possibility,” Mendenhall told Pittsburgh reporters, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I’ll be back at some point. It’s just a matter of what point that is.”
Mendenhall, who tore the ACL in his right knee on Jan. 1, is entering the final year of his contract. Asked if there was any chance he wouldn't play in 2012, Mendenhall said, “I don’t see that happening at all.”
Hensley's slant: There's really no chance that Mendenhall will be ready for the season opener. Even if he tried, he wouldn't be effective. The presumed timetable is putting him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) and seeing if he can play after six weeks. Mendenhall wants to play as soon as possible because he doesn't want to go into free agency with teams questioning his health.
BENGALS: With the Bengals seeking a replacement for safety Chris Crocker, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has joked that they'll be the first team in history to play with three corners. Former Bengals defensive back Artrell Hawkins says don't laugh. "A lot of these guys are interchangeable and Marvin (Lewis) has moved more that way," Hawkins told the team's official website. "It's a matter of getting value with one guy at a couple of spots. It's like a defensive tackle playing fullback on the goal line. It's harder to game plan for and in this day and age, it's the more you do, the more you stay around. Because other teams have been successful that have tried it, other teams are willing to try it." Hensley's slant: The biggest question mark on defense remains safety. If they did go with three corners, Jason Allen does have experience at safety. But most expect the Bengals to go with Taylor Mays.
BROWNS: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Terry Pluto thinks the Browns should keep Colt McCoy as the primary backup to Brandon Weeden. "If there is a choice between a 31-year-old (Seneca) Wallace making $3 million a year and McCoy at $550,000 -- remember, these contracts are not guaranteed -- why not go with McCoy?," Pluto wrote. "He is younger, cheaper and far more likely to take a step forward in his career than Wallace. If McCoy is smart, he will 'compete' for the starting job, embrace the backup role if that's his assignment, and the Browns would be wise to give him the chance to do so." Hensley's slant: As regular readers of the blog know, I've been saying the Browns should go with McCoy as the backup since the Browns drafted Weeden.
RAVENS: Linebacker Terrell Suggs is expected to start rehabbing his Achilles injury in mid-June ... Rookie second-round pick Courtney Upshaw was working at Jarret Johnson's linebacker spot, and Paul Kruger was filling in at Suggs' position. ... Rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele worked at left guard with the first-team offense. Hensley's slant: Osemele still has to work on his technique in switching from college tackle to NFL guard. But he definitely looks the part. At 6-foot-5, 333 pounds, Osemele is a space-eater on the interior.