- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Ravens reporter
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The Cleveland Browns are the first team in the division to take to the field this offseason because teams with new coaches are allowed to hold an early voluntary minicamp. The Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers have begun their offseason workout programs, but those teams won't hold on-field activities until May. Lucky for you, there's never such a wait when it comes to the wake-up call ...
RAVENS: The Ravens have been able to take risks with reclamation projects in the past because they've had such strong leaders in Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. Now, with both of them gone, Baltimore believes it can still have success with troubled players like inside linebacker Rolando McClain, who signed a one-year contract last week. "I think the guys in the locker room will be able to provide him with the proper guidance that he needs as to the way John wants his football team and football players to be," general manager Ozzie Newsome said, via The Baltimore Sun.
BENGALS: Tight end Alex Smith, who signed with the Bengals on Tuesday, believes switching from Cleveland to Cincinnati will allow him to go from the bottom of the AFC North to the top of it. "I thought the division was definitely leaning in Cincinnati's favor based on some of the roster moves that teams were doing," Smith said, via the team's official website. "Cleveland is going through another transition with a new coach (and) just seeing the way players were exiting out of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, I thought the way Cincinnati was able to keep the nucleus … they already had a nice, young talented roster, so I think being able to build off of that, you've already seen success and I expect them to run away and be even better now. Especially with the shape of the rest of the division."
STEELERS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told WDVE in Pittsburgh that he is "really excited" that the Steelers have matched the offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders, which keeps the wide receiver around for one more season. “He’s a lot better than people give him credit for being,” Roethlisberger said. “He’s really smart. It’s good for the team. He’s a good teammate. He can really help. If he stays healthy, I think he can do some great things.” Roethlisberger had lobbied to keep Sanders since the New England Patriots signed Sanders to the offer sheet.
BROWNS: It's still about five months until the start of the regular season, but Brandon Weeden took the first reps at quarterback when the Browns opened their first offseason camp under new coach Rob Chudzinski. Weeden told The Plain Dealer that "this is probably the biggest time of my entire career, just because the rookie year is tough. Going into year two, you've got to show you can play." The Browns signed Jason Campbell to compete with Weeden, and there is still a chance that Cleveland could draft a quarterback. Weeden said he hasn't been told of the team's draft plans. "That's above my pay grade," he said.
The Cleveland Browns are the first team in the division to take to the field this offseason because teams with new coaches are allowed to hold an early voluntary minicamp.