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Monday, June 18, 2012
Wake-up: Wallace's tender was always safe

By Jamison Hensley

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

The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't reduce wide receiver Mike Wallace's restricted free-agent tender on Friday, and they apparently never thought of doing so.

“That’s never been an intention of ours,” Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert told 105.9 The X, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “When we tendered Mike at the amount we did, the compensation through that tender, we really had no issue with that whatsoever because he is deserving of that.”

Friday was the only day that the Steelers could cut Wallace's unsigned tender from $2.72 million to $577,000.

“We want him to get a long-term deal that he deserves," Colbert said, "and I am real confident that we will be able to do that because, when both sides want the same thing, it is only a matter of time."

Hensley's slant: I think Wallace will end his protest this summer and report to training camp on time (it's July 25). Why? Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger expects his top target to be there. If Wallace doesn't report for training camp, that's when the real drama begins. But there's no indication that he'll miss regular-season games like Vincent Jackson did two seasons ago. Actually, not reducing Wallace's tender increases the chances of him playing this season. If you cut his salary, he has less to lose if he chose to miss games.

BENGALS: Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick is doing more than adjusting to the speed of the game. The Bengals' first-round pick is adjusting to a new technique. "I never backpedaled," Kirkpatrick told the team's official website. "We were always press man, Cover 2. It was never just sit there and reading the receiver on his route. It was something new." Hensley's slant: If Kirkpatrick follows the path of two recent Bengals' first-round cornerbacks, he won't be asked to start immediately. Johnathan Joseph and Leon Hall combined to make three starts in their first seven games. The Bengals don't have to rush Kirkpatrick after they added former first-round picks Adam Jones, Terence Newman and Jason Allen this offseason.

BROWNS: Brandon Weeden, the Browns' 28-year-old rookie quarterback, can look to Roger Staubach as a role model. In 1969, Staubach was a 27-year-old rookie quarterback after fulfilling his service commitment with the Navy. "Age is a factor. But if you can play at 21, you can play at 27," Staubach told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "It's not like he's a running back [in terms of punishment]. He can have a 12-year career. He just won't play 18 years. I was in better shape at 27 than I was at 23. Weeden has to believe he's better at his age than he was younger." Hensley's slant: If Staubach can provide hope, Chris Weinke is an example that older quarterbacks aren't guaranteed to have immediate success in the NFL. He entered the league at 29 and finished with a 2-18 record.

RAVENS: Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs hasn't been on the practice field, and his focus is on rehabbing his surgically-repaired Achilles tendon. But the NFL Defensive Player of the Year is becoming a fan of linebacker Courtney Upshaw, the team's top draft pick this year. "From what I've seen on film, he's playing pretty good," Suggs told Comcast SportsNet. "He's ahead of where I was when I came in my rookie year." Hensley's slant: Upshaw won't be playing Suggs' spot on the field. That's going to be Paul Kruger. But Suggs is right about Upshaw, who is scheduled to start as a rookie. Even though Suggs was the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2003, he was a pass-rush specialist and didn't play on the team's base defense.