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Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Wake-up: Taylor will be back this season

By Jamison Hensley

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

Browns general manager Tom Heckert said he's "100 percent" sure that defensive tackle Phil Taylor will play this season. Taylor underwent surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle Wednesday.

"I don't think there's any question about that," Heckert told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Monday night. "We think he'll probably be [ready by the] end of October, early November, but he'll definitely be back. [It's] six months at the most. That's being very, very cautious. He could be back earlier than that."

This timetable decreases the chances of the Browns adding a veteran defensive lineman. "We're really happy with the guys we have, especially the two guys we drafted [third-rounder John Hughes and sixth-rounder Billy Winn]," Heckert said.

Hensley's slant: Getting Taylor back at any point this season is a major plus for the Browns. Hughes and Winn are likely not ready to handle the challenges of starting a full season as rookies, and there is no veteran free agent who can significantly upgrade the position.

BENGALS: Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden shot down speculation that there are some in the Bengals organization who have their doubts about Andy Dalton’s upside and his arm strength limitations. "If there were reservations about Andy Dalton there would be a lot more quarterbacks here right now," Gruden told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We know and he knows he has to get better and he is chomping at the bit to get going. I have no reservations about his arm strength. I think he can do it all. If you can throw it 62, 63 yards, that is pretty strong. He does have a long way to go to get better. We’re not putting his jersey or shoes in Canton right now, but we have every reason to believe he will continue to improve.” Hensley's slant: Dalton doesn't have great arm strength, which is one of the reasons he fell into the second round last year. But Dalton succeeded last season because Gruden tailored the offense to Dalton's strengths and made him feel comfortable. Every quarterback has limitations, but it's the team's job to accentuate his strengths.

RAVENS: Safety Bernard Pollard is remaining supportive of Ed Reed, who indicated last week that he isn't committed to playing football right now. "This is a business, and Ed and I have had these talks before, but whatever he decides to do, we back him 100 percent," Pollard said, via SportsRadioInterviews.com. "The guy is a heck of a football player, he’s been a heck of a football player his whole career and for me it’s exciting playing with him. I guess I will put this out there: He better not leave me hanging so we’ll be alright.” Hensley's slant: Teammates, especially the defensive backs, have tremendous respect for Reed. But they understand there are some things you have to deal with when it comes to playing with him, whether it's his tendency to gamble during games and his constant wavering in the offseason.

STEELERS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said his relationship with new offensive coordinator Todd Haley is fine. There was drama this offseason when Roethlisberger and Haley didn't meet for two weeks after the Steelers hired Haley to replace Bruce Arians. “People blew it way out of proportion,” Roethlisberger told KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh. “It’s something new, we’re getting to know each other … There’s no trouble between us at all. When you get a comfort level of like eight years of the same thing and then you change it, it’s just something different. So I’m not saying I don’t like the playbook or anything like that. Some of the concepts are awesome. It’s just getting an understanding of something new.” Hensley's slant: Roethlisberger will get a better feeling for Haley's new offense when he takes the field today for the start of OTAs. This offense will still be centered around Roethlisberger, but there will be a transition period after being in Arians' system for five years. That's why it would help if wide receiver Mike Wallace attended these workouts.