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Friday, December 2, 2011
Wake-up: Pouncey says he's going to play

By Jamison Hensley

Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:

Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey said he expects to play Sunday against the Bengals despite losing 12 pounds from a violent stomach virus last weekend.

Pouncey coughed and sneezed through Saturday night and then got sick when he arrived at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium. He's been on a diet of bread, yogurt and fluid ever since, which has helped him gain two pounds back (he's now 279 pounds).

"I'm definitely going to play," Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday, when he returned to practice with limited participation.

Pouncey lasted 18 plays last Sunday before getting replaced by Doug Legursky.

"In between the plays, I was having dry heaves, I couldn't stop trying to throw up," he told the paper. "When I got to the sideline, they wanted to IV me."
Hensley's slant: The Steelers need Pouncey to be as close to full strength as possible against the most underrated defensive front in the NFL. The Bengals' defensive linemen have totaled 23.5 sacks this season. Cincinnati hasn't had to blitz to get after quarterbacks this year.

BENGALS: Right tackle Andre Smith said he's ready for his rematch with Steelers outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley, who is expected to return after missing three games. The last time Smith faced Woodley was last year, when Smith was dominated so much that he was pulled briefly for a series. "He's a phenomenal player and it's going to be a dogfight," Smith told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "When I played him last year, I wasn't as mature as I am now."
Hensley's slant: This really will be a true test of how much Smith has progressed since last year. He's among the most improved players in the AFC North. But Woodley was on a tear before getting hurt, recording 7.5 sacks in a span of four games.


BROWNS: Cleveland coach Pat Shurmur said he didn't have a problem with the recent venting of wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who said he was "fed up" with losing. "It sounded to me like he just wants to win," Shurmur said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Cribbs tried to clarify his comments Thursday by saying: "That doesn't mean that I want to leave [because] I am sick and tired of losing like everybody is."
Hensley's slant: No one forced Cribbs to stay in Cleveland. He signed a three-year, $20 million contract last year. The Browns also have tried hard to appease Cribbs this season, giving him the second-most snaps among wide receivers and letting him play on special teams.

RAVENS: Lardarius Webb has become the top cornerback on the Ravens' defense, according to the Carroll County Times. "I'm healthy as a player; last year I wasn't healthy, I admit it," said Webb, who estimated he played at 80 percent last season which was one year after blowing out his knee. "I was thinking I was that fast and I wasn't that fast. My mind thought I was doing it, but legs weren't doing it like I thought I was doing it. I thought I got a good jump, but it really wasn't a good jump because it was slow because of my knee."
Hensley's slant: Webb's play has been one of the biggest surprises of the Ravens' defense this year. It seemed like he was going to be Baltimore's nickel back this season, but he had a strong preseason when veterans (Domonique Foxworth and Chris Carr) struggled with injuries. You can envision Webb and first-round pick Jimmy Smith as the Ravens' starting cornerbacks for many years.