- 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:
A Cleveland Browns spokesman says the team is not for sale, refuting a radio report that the NFL franchise might be on the market.
Neal Gulkis, the team's vice president of media relations, said Thursday that "the Browns are not for sale." The only statement from the Browns on this matter wasn't attributed to owner Randy Lerner, whose father purchased the expansion franchise for $530 million in 1998.
Gulkis was responding to a report by Philadelphia radio personality Howard Eskin, who posted on his Twitter page that former Eagles president Joe Banner is putting together a group to buy the Buffalo Bills and that the Browns and St. Louis Rams may also be for sale.
"My understanding is that the Bills are (Banner's) first priority,'' Eskin told 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland. "I was also told by an NFL source that Cleveland and St. Louis may be for sale, but Joe's first order of business from what I was told was Buffalo, if in fact he can get that money together and do all of those things. Cleveland and St. Louis were secondary in the information that I got. ... I was told by somebody I truly, truly respect with information, but outside of that, I know nothing further.''
Hensley's slant: This report likely comes from the fact that there are many in the league who think Lerner never wanted to be the Browns owner. He didn't purchase the team. He inherited it from his father. But there are others who believe Lerner won't sell the team until he turns it around.
BENGALS: Dontay Moch has displayed a very quick and athletic pass rush in the team's offseason team activities that gives offensive tackles problems, according to the Bengals' official website. "He can definitely get upfield," linebackers coach Paul Guenther said. "He's got value to us as a pass-rusher, but we have to have confidence that we can play him on first and second down, too." Moch, a third-round pick from a year ago, is still trying to make the transition from college end to strongside linebacker. Hensley's slant: The Bengals would like Moch to make an impact on the pass rush this season because they need a presence opposite Carlos Dunlap. But the more pressing question with Moch is whether he'll be able to play for the Bengals in their first four games. He is reportedly appealing a suspension for using a banned substance. "It's out of my hands," he said.
RAVENS: Linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the team's top pick from this year's draft, isn't worried about any hazing from the veterans. “I kind of built up a reputation as a football player as one of those guys not to mess with," Upshaw told Comcast SportsNet in Baltimore, via the team's website. "Hopefully they feel the same way, ‘We’re not going to mess with Courtney.'” The website noted that nose tackle Terrence Cody referred to his teammate as "a mean dude." Hensley's slant: The best way for Upshaw to gain the respect of the veterans is to step up to the challenge of being a starter. He is expected to take over for Jarret Johnson, who went to San Diego as a free agent, as Baltimore's strongside linebacker. He reportedly dropped about seven pounds since the team drafted him in April, which should help with his transition to being an NFL linebacker. Unlike his time at Alabama, Upshaw is being asked to drop back in coverage during the Ravens' OTAs.
STEELERS: Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau still doesn't have an answer for how the NFL's top-ranked defense gave up 316 passing yards to Tim Tebow in the playoffs, which included an 80-yard winning touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in overtime. "If I had an answer for that, it wouldn't have happened," LeBeau told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "But I can tell you this, in the National Football League, a game like that can happen every Sunday, and does happen somewhere around the league. And I don't care what your stats are. I don't care who you have out there, the other people have skilled people, too. It only takes a couple plays as we saw, and it's a lot of yards and a lot of points and you end up losing." Hensley's slant: LeBeau faces a bigger challenge when the Steelers return to Denver in this year's season opener. Something tells me LeBeau won't be stacking the box against Peyton Manning. LeBeau, though, has to decide whether he'll be starting Keenan Lewis, Cortez Allen or Curtis Brown at cornerback for that first game.