I'm giving you fair warning that the AFC North blog will have a purple tint to it today. The weekly column, which should be posted around noon, is on the Super Bowl champions. I will also be covering the Ravens' visit to the White House today. Let's take a look at what's happening around the division in the wake-up call ...
RAVENS: The Ravens are having contract talks with free-agent inside linebacker Daryl Smith, sources told The Baltimore Sun. Smith, 31, is the Jaguars' all-time leading tackler. He was limited to two games last season with a groin injury and made a free-agent visit to St. Louis in April, his only one of the offseason. Adding Smith would make up for the loss of Rolando McClain, who abruptly retired. The Ravens' only experienced inside linebacker is Jameel McClain, who is recovering from a spinal cord contusion. Rookie second-round pick Arthur Brown, the other top inside linebacker for Baltimore, is out until training camp after having sports hernia surgery.
BENGALS: Defensive end Michael Johnson has been in the NFL for four years, which is as long as rookie Margus Hunt has been playing football. But Johnson is among those who have impressed with Hunt, even if he wants to keep it a secret as long as possible. "Shh … impressive. Very, very impressive. I'm glad we’ve got him," Johnson told the team's official website. "Look at him. He's got all the tools. Big. Fast. Strong. And we've got a good group of guys to come in and learn with and grow with because we're still learning and growing. He can jump in and get on this train and he can watch all of us."
STEELERS: Nose tackle Steve McLendon believes he can be more than a replacement for Casey Hampton. He feels he can be an every-down player. “I tell them not to take that pass rush from me because I can do that, I can rush the passer,” McLendon told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “I tell (defensive line coach John Mitchell) that all the time, but he won't let me.” This is big talk for McLendon, who has one career start and played only 139 defensive snaps last season. He did lose 15 pounds this offseason to increase his chances of staying on the field more.
BROWNS: There is no competition for the starting quarterback job, according to ESPN Radio in Cleveland's Tony Grossi. He came to this conclusion after watching Brandon Weeden take all of the snaps with the first team. "Weeden has looked exceptional now in the last three team practices open to media," Grossi wrote. "Any strong-armed passer with some playing experience should excel in the touch football phase of an NFL offseason, and Weeden has done that." There is expected to be a battle for the backup job between Jason Campbell and Brian Hoyer.