Wake-up call: Not reducing Rice's workload

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
8:00
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Cabin fever is starting to set in at AFC North headquarters, because this is the first week this month that doesn't include a trip to one of the team's headquarters. Not sure if Walgreens sells anything for that, but I guess it's worth a try. Anyway, before you take Arian Foster as the top pick in your fantasy draft, take a look at the wake-up call:

BENGALS: First-round pick Kevin Zeitler, a Wisconsin native, grew up a Packers fan but never went to a game. That is, until Thursday night when the Bengals play the Packers at Paul Brown Stadium. "It is kind of ironic that my first Packers game will be me playing against them," the Bengals' rookie right guard told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "It would have been cool [to have been drafted by Green Bay], but I’m definitely happy to be in Cincinnati.” The Bengals are extremely happy that he's in Cincinnati. Zeitler, who will have more than 30 friends and family members attending the game, has given much-needed toughness to the team's inside running game.

BROWNS: After leading all rookies with 8.5 sacks, defensive end Jabaal Sheard has his sights on becoming one of the top pass-rushers in the league this season. “I hear about [Dwight] Freeney and [Julius] Peppers and all these guys,” Sheard told the Akron Beacon Journal. “I just want to be as good as them. I just want to be great. I want to work hard and hopefully one day be that dominant D-end that guys talk about.” The biggest knock on Sheard has been his consistency as a run defender. He doesn't fill his gaps, which leads to a clear running lane. The message is starting to sink in, though. Sheard knows the only way to get more pass-rushing opportunities is to stop the run.

RAVENS: Fantasy alert! Running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery doesn't see a reduction in Ray Rice's touches after the team gave him a new long-term contract this offseason. "You don't buy a new car and put it in the driveway and just park it in the garage," Montgomery told the Baltimore Sun. "You buy it, you drive it. If you wear the wheels off, you go out and get another one. So, Ray carrying 300 times, I'm looking for the next Ray Rice after that." One of the reasons why the Ravens gave Rice a new deal is because he can handle a good workload, but he doesn't get the same wear and tear as the team's other great back, Jamal Lewis. Of Rice's 1,209 career touches, 20 percent have been receptions.

STEELERS: There's been a new Ryan Clark at Steelers training camp this season. Actually, the Steelers safety has been virtually invisible to reporters. The usually outspoken Clark has made a concerted effort to turn down the volume this year. “Some of the attention that you draw when the statements you make are against the people who make the rules, I think it makes it harder on your team,” Clark told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “When it starts to affect the way your team is viewed, when it starts affecting the perception of your organization, you have to look at it and understand the greater good.” I've always considered Clark to be one of the more insightful players in the Pittsburgh locker room. So, you have to admire him toning it down, because he feels that the players' comments -- especially those against NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- have put the organization in a bad light.

Jamison Hensley

ESPN Ravens reporter

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