Players are making their way to training camp this week, so I'm reporting back to the AFC North blog today after some great vacation time (as if there is really bad vacation time). While I was away, there was plenty of good news in the division: the Ravens signed Ray Rice to a long-term deal, the Browns got a new wide receiver and the Steelers welcomed back Max Starks.
Now that we're updated, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
BENGALS: Head coach Marvin Lewis was unapologetic in addressing the comments of former cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who took shots at how Cincinnati handles players which includes limiting the number of Gatorades that they can take home. "It's my fault that I feel that a player doesn't need to take a dozen Gatorades home in his backpack each night and that we are paying him a salary," Lewis said in a Cincinnati Enquirer online chat. "I'm sure that Johnathan would not have been one of the abusive players, but it is my policy." Hensley's slant: The Bengals take a lot of grief for being a thrifty organization, but Lewis is right on this topic. With the salaries that these players get, it's surprising to hear someone complain about buying Gatorade. Of course, NFL teams should be happy when a player is only drinking a Gatorade before driving these days.
BROWNS: The door is open for rookies John Hughes and Billy Winn to step in for injured defensive tackle Phil Taylor, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. "Of the four [players] in this competition, Hughes should be the front-runner if he can conquer the learning curve," the Beacon Journal's Nate Ulrich wrote. "Not only did the Browns use a third-round pick on him, a decision for which they took heat, but he also looks like a tackle." Hensley's slant: Although Scott Paxson ran with the first-team defense in minicamps, I agree that Hughes should be the favorite for this spot. The reason Hughes looks more likes a defensive tackle is the fact that he's 320 pounds, which is 25 pounds more than the other four players competing for the job.
RAVENS: Cornerback Cary Williams, who had hip surgery in February, told the Baltimore Sun that he is "full go" for training camp after being limited all offseason. A starter for all 18 games last season, Williams has to hold off Jimmy Smith this camp to keep his job. "Jimmy's a great corner. We expect to battle it out camp time,” Williams said. “The great thing about it is that we care about each other. We love each other. We hang together. We're both great teammates. We wish the best for each other. I wish him the best in everything that he does." Hensley's slant: Williams was one of the biggest surprises for the Ravens last season, but Smith should start opposite Lardarius Webb this season. Smith was on track to start at some point last season before a high-ankle sprain in the season opener derailed those plans. The Ravens don't let their first-round picks sit on the sidelines for too long.
STEELERS: Former linebacker Joey Porter announced last week that he is coming back to retire as a Steeler. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook believes that Porter's loyalty and teamwork are memorable. "[Jerome] Bettis was the team's unquestioned leader during that era, but Porter provided the emotional energy," Cook wrote. "[Teammates] reveled in his passion, not just during games but after wins when he would lead their "Who ride? We ride!" chant that would nearly bring down the locker room walls." Hensley's slant: Porter made stops in Miami and Arizona after the Steelers released him, but he will always be remembered as a Steeler. He becomes the second player to retire as a Steeler this offseason, joining Kordell Stewart. It says a lot about an organization when players want to retire as a member of that team.