AFC North: Chad Johnson
Rookie inside linebacker Arthur Brown is working his way back after sports hernia surgery.
Steve Spagnuolo is enjoying his new role as a senior defensive assistant with the Ravens.
Terrell Owens visited his former Bengals teammate Chad Johnson in the Broward County, Fla., jail on Saturday.
The Bengals will be in the spotlight again as the team will be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
Father's Day has a special meaning for Norv and Scott Turner.
Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer dips into her mailbag to discuss all things Browns related.
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski is excited about how things went for him this offseason.
Mike Golic Jr. was the recipient of some sound advice before signing with the Steelers.
Does Jones worry about suffering a similar fate?
“I’m on the younger side,” Jones told the team's official website. “I’ll be fine.”
Jones does have youth on his side. At 28, Jones is the youngest NFL player in "Dancing With The Stars" history (according to DWTS Stats & Information).
Taylor, who was 33 when he went on the show in 2008, finished with 3.5 sacks for the Washington Redskins after recording 11 the previous season. He was released in 2009 and signed with the Miami Dolphins.
Johnson, who was 32 on DWTS and had the last name Ochocinco in 2010, managed 67 catches for 831 yards, the second-lowest during his nine seasons as a starting receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals. He was traded to the New England Patriots in 2011.
Ward, who was 35 on the show in 2011, caught 46 passes for 381 yards and two touchdowns, his lowest numbers in more than a decade. He was released in 2012 and later retired with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Driver, who was 37 on DWTS in 2012, had eight receptions for 77 yards, his worst season since his rookie year. He retired with the Green Bay Packers in 2013.
The Ravens can't afford for Jones to decline this season. He has a chance to become a starting receiver for the Ravens after the team traded Anquan Boldin this offseason. At the very least, Jones will be Baltimore's primary returner, which earned him Pro Bowl honors last season.
Jones only missed one week of on-field workouts because of the show. But he hasn't been part of the team's offseason conditioning program, which began April 15.
“My conditioning is good and I’m not sore,” Jones said. “I’ve just got to get my legs back under me, football-wise. It’s not like dancing. I still don’t feel like me. In a week, I’ll feel like me.”
RAVENS: Everything is going well with left tackle Bryant McKinnie, according to The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston. He's hearing word that McKinnie has been attending the team's offseason conditioning workout sessions and his weight is down. Preston thinks there are other concerns with the offensive line. "The Ravens need to work on timing issues, especially in the middle of the offensive line with new center Gino Gradkowski and guards Marshal Yanda and Kelechi Osemele," Preston wrote. "If Gradkowski performs well, the Ravens' offensive line could be one of the strong in the conference -- providing McKinnie keeps working hard."
BENGALS: Rookie linebacker Brandon Joiner, who recently served eight months of a three-year sentence for aggravated robbery, has an unlikely supporter -- Arkansas governor Mike Beebe. Joiner and Beebe both attended Arkansas State. "He's a good guy. This is the kind of story you like to talk about," Beebe told the team's official website. "Kids mess up. They do foolish things. We probably have all done stupid things when we're young. He went over the line. He did what he had to do. He paid his dues. He's a class guy."
Meanwhile, a warrant has been issued for the arrest of former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson in South Florida. A circuit judge issued a warrant May 7 against Johnson for failing to report to his probation officer. Johnson received a year of probation last September after pleading no contest to a domestic violence charge involving his former wife, reality TV star Evelyn Lozada.
STEELERS: The Steelers signed their first draft pick from this year's class, reaching a deal with safety Shamarko Thomas. He was the first of two fourth-round picks for Pittsburgh. The Steelers traded next year's third-round pick to the Browns so they could draft Thomas. At Syracuse, Thomas started 39 games, recording 263 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. The Steelers, who have less than $2 million in salary-cap room, won't be able to sign all nine of their draft picks this month. Pittsburgh gains an additional $5.5 million next month because it designated guard Willie Colon a June 1 cut.
BROWNS: The Browns signed quarterback Brian Hoyer and running back Brandon Jackson, according to The Plain Dealer. Both are likely competing for backup jobs. Hoyer signed a two-year deal with his hometown team after stops in New England, Pittsburgh and Arizona. Hoyer, 27, was released by the Cardinals five days ago. Jackson, who is primarily a third-down back, signed a one-year deal to return to Cleveland. Both deals have yet to be announced by the Browns. I will provide my thoughts on the addition of Hoyer later this morning.
Former Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson told ESPN First Take that he's "fine with it" if he doesn't get a chance to play in the NFL again but believes he'll get another opportunity.
Johnson had seven 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Bengals from 2001 to 2010 before the Pro Bowl wide receiver disappeared when he was traded to the Patriots. He's been out of football since he was arrested in a domestic violence incident against his ex-wife last summer.
"I messed up. I messed up. Period," Johnson said. "I lost everything. Football, my wife, the family I had, over something that didn't really mean anything. I lost that edge when my focus went away from the game of football. I know that. I understand that."
BENGALS: Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot) are expected to be held out of Thursday's preseason game at Atlanta, but those starters could practice later in the week, coach Marvin Lewis said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. Undrafted rookie Vontaze Burfict filled in for Maualuga with the first-team defense Sunday. Strong safety Taylor Mays (concussion) could return to practice Monday. Hensley's slant: The Bengals have to be very careful with Green-Ellis because they're unsure whether backup Bernard Scott will be available for the season opener in Baltimore. Scott has a cast around his hand and it's believed he'll be ready shortly after the preseason. Still, no one knows if that means Scott will suit up for the regular season. That's why the Bengals have to play it safe with Green-Ellis.
BROWNS: Like another AFC North coach, the Browns' Pat Shurmur isn't a fan of Twitter, especially when a player uses it to contradict him. That's what happened this weekend, when wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi disputed Shurmur's announcement that he had suffered a concussion. Unlike Lewis, Shurmur doesn't plan to ban Twitter. "You know how I feel about tweets and twitters, No. 1," Shurmur said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Yeah, I don't like them. That's my policy. I encourage them not to and I think it's important that they don't. I don't think you can totally harness social media. I've come to that realization. But what I can do is encourage and inspire them to be very professional and not talk about Browns business. That's just my feeling on it. That's a big thing to harness, social media." Hensley's slant: I'm all for athletes being able to freely express themselves on Twitter. But they have to be smart about it. It probably wasn't the best idea for Massaquoi to get on Shurmur's bad side, especially when the Browns can easily replace him in the starting lineup with Josh Gordon.
RAVENS: Tight end Ed Dickson doesn't necessarily agree with the timetable that he will miss the remainder of the preseason with a sprained right shoulder. He is trying to get rid of the soreness in the shoulder and believes it's improving on a daily basis. “If it so happens that I come back early, I definitely want to get some work in and I want to take advantage of those opportunities in the preseason games to get my chemistry down with Joe before the opener,” Dickson told the Baltimore Sun. “But I’m aiming to be ready when it counts.” Hensley's slant: You get the sense that Dickson has this urgency to return because he doesn't want to lose his hold on the starting job to Dennis Pitta, who is also expected to be ready for the regular season after breaking his hand. Dickson was the preferred tight end target early last season, but Pitta was the more effective tight end later in the season.
STEELERS: It was Round 2 at Steelers training camp, where wide receiver Antonio Brown and cornerback Ike Taylor were involved in their second fight of the summer. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sunday's incident began when Taylor stepped in front of an end-zone pass for Brown and tried to pull the ball away. After wrestling for it on the ground, the players jumped to their feet, and Brown threw a punch at Taylor. Then, following practice, Taylor went after Brown in the middle of the field, where general manager Kevin Colbert and others had to separate them. Holding an icepack to his forehead, Taylor eventually walked off the field with Brown. Hensley's slant: It's a fine line for coaches because you don't want players to fight but you want to see them being competitive in every drill. If a third altercation occurs between Brown and Taylor, head coach Mike Tomlin can't chalk it up to "those things happen" like he did Sunday. Brown and Taylor are the best at their positions on this team. Tomlin can't allow them to keep butting heads (sorry, Chad Johnson).
The Bengals are enjoying a quiet training camp, which is put into perspective by Friday's preseason opponent, the New York Jets.
"We're going to play the headline team, so it's good," said Lewis, alluding to the attention directed at the Jets from Tebow-mania to their daily fights. "They're a good football team. They're well coached. They have very good players. They were disappointed in their season last year just like we were disappointed in our 2010 season. Now, they got something to prove just like we feel like we have something to prove."
Here are some other notes from Lewis' talk with reporters Wednesday:
On playing a game with replacement officials: "No concerns. It's not in my control. I told my guys to go play and it'll be what it'll be. These guys have been working collegiate games. They're the guys who have been chosen to go. They're going to do the best job they can. I'm sure when I meet with them before the game, that's what they're going to tell me."
On whether the starters will play a half like they did last year: "I doubt that they would play that much. I give them certain goals to reach. If they reach them, earn your way out."
On Johnson's profanity-filled news conference featured on "Hard Knocks" last night: "See he's acting then. He's not being himself. He doesn't really curse. He's not a real curser."
On whether first-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick, who has begun on-field work, will be ready to return in a week or two: "We'll see. Whenever they tell me he's ready."
After a rocky offseason, Ed Reed has made it known he wants to keep playing in Baltimore. "I know the Ravens know I want to be here," Reed said. "I wouldn't give myself to the football team like I do if I didn't want to be here. There is a business side to it. Not every story plays out the way you want it to be. When we cross that bridge, you guys will know."
With Dennis Pitta out with a broken hand, the Ravens signed veteran tight end Billy Bajema. Bajema played in St. Louis last season.
In addition to his role on special teams, running back Cedric Peerman is looking to expand his role on the offensive side of the ball this season.
Former Bengals wideout Chad Johnson vows to return to form this season in Miami.
According to coach Pat Shurmur, quarterback Colt McCoy is showing improvement over his 2011 performance.
Travis Benjamin isn't about to let his size deter him.
Ben Roethlisberger isn't concerned about his "little" rotator cuff tear.
Count Antonio Brown among the fans of Todd Haley's coaching style and personality.
The Ravens are scheduled to work out veteran guard Eric Steinbach on Tuesday, according to CBS Sports.
Steinbach was cut by the Browns on March 14 after he refused to take a pay cut. He has reportedly recovered from back problems that forced him to miss the entire 2011 season.
CBS Sports reports there are other AFC teams interested in Steinbach, 32, who was expected to be ready to work out for teams in mid-July.
Hensley's slant: The Ravens are taking an AFC North approach in solving their left guard spot. If Steinbach is signed, he would battle former Bengals guard Bobbie Williams for the starting job. Both are short-term solutions. This would allow rookie second-round pick Kelechi Osemele time to develop before getting pushed into the starting lineup.
BENGALS: In honor of former Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco officially changing his name back to Chad Johnson, the Cincinnati Enquirer's Joe Reedy gave his "8.5 moments" of the Ochocinco era. The top moment was Ochocinco's appearance on Dancing with the Stars. Hensley's slant: Yes, it's a slow news day for the Bengals when you have to rely on a former receiver changing his name as the news item. If I had to choose a favorite moment, it would be the time when Ochocinco honored the late Chris Henry, who was one of his best friends on the team. After a 49-yard touchdown catch, Ochocinco knelt down in the end zone and said a prayer.
BROWNS: Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, the last unsigned first-round pick in the AFC North, wants all four years of his rookie contract guaranteed, something that doesn't often happen with picks taken in the bottom third of the first round. "What I'm asking for is not too much. I think it's fair," Weeden told ESPN.com's Lynn Hoppes. "If they see me in their plans as the starting quarterback, it doesn't make sense why they wouldn't do it." Hensley's slant: Weeden might think his demand is "fair" but it's not realistic. Chandler Jones, who was selected one spot ahead of Weeden, had about half of his $1.5 million fourth-year salary guaranteed. David DeCastro, who was taken two spots after Weeden, only had the first three years of his contract fully guaranteed. I would be surprised to see the Browns guaranteeing all four years for Weeden even if it means getting him to training camp on time.
STEELERS: In breaking down the position battles for training camp, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review analyzed the competition between Chris Rainey and Baron Batch for one of the backup running back spots: "Rainey’s speed potentially adds a different dimension to Todd Haley’s offense, but Batch might have been the breakout player of the 2011 camp until he injured a knee." Hensley's slant: Rainey probably won't be in too many position battles because he won't have a specific position. He should be the Steelers' version of Dexter McCluster, who played under Todd Haley in Kansas City. Rainey will line up at running back and wide receiver for the Steelers, who should have specialized packages for him. I still consider Rainey among the biggest steals of the fifth round this year.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
One of the most asked questions in Baltimore is why the Ravens passed up receivers with every draft pick last weekend? Behind starters Mark Clayton and Derrick Mason, there is very little proven talent at that position.
Are the Ravens happy with their current talent? Does Baltimore have a fallback plan?
We check in with ESPN.com's Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to get the answers to these questions.
|Al Bello/Getty Images|
|Mark Clayton has shown flashes, but has not yet proved he can be a reliable option at receiver.|
James Walker: Matt, the Ravens have an obvious need for receiver depth. Why do you think they passed on the position entirely during the draft?
Matt Williamson: That is surprising, there's no question about that. I really commend them for going up and getting [former Mississippi offensive tackle] Michael Oher. I don't think he should have been there that late at No. 23. He's a potential star right tackle, and I think they will groom him to be a great player. But I still think they ignored their biggest need. Their receivers are just OK. Mason still plays at a pretty high level, and he's tough and plays through pain. Clayton has shown glimpses, but to say he's somebody they can count on to be a solid contributor might be a little far-fetched. But I think quarterback Joe Flacco in his second year does have the ability to make those around him better as he progresses.
James Walker: What about the depth behind Clayton and Mason? Any chance these players could stand out for Baltimore next season?
Matt Williamson: Demetrius Williams I think has a chance to be a decent player, at least a solid No. 3 that they didn't have last year. But who's to say one of those guys won't get hurt again? Now they're in the same situation. There still isn't much depth there. They drafted Marcus Smith last year, and I haven't seen anything out of him to think that he's going to be starting material or someone you want on the field. I think they like Smith a little bit, but to project him as anything more than a No. 4 receiver at this point is a little bit of a reach.
James Walker: Since we agree this is strange for Baltimore to ignore the position, any chance general manager Ozzie Newsome has a last-minute trick up his sleeve?
Matt Williamson: It couldn't be Braylon Edwards or Chad [Ocho Cinco] because they're both in the division. It would have to be Anquan Boldin if anything. I tend to think Ozzie does have something planned, because they are one of the top front offices in the league, and they have to realize that they're close. Ozzie is about as good as it gets, and it seems like there has to be another shoe to drop. There should be something else out there for them to address that need, because it seems like they're ignoring it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE -- Keith Bulluck doesn't mind stirring the pot, and he grabbed a big spoon Monday as the Titans began to turn their attention to Sunday's trip to Cincinnati.
Asked his feelings on Chad Johnson changing his name to Chad Ocho Cinco, the Titans linebacker put his own touch on the name.
"Oucho? I like Oucho," Bulluck said to laughter at the Titans' press conference. "Oucho Cinco. That's great. He's Oucho right now, I saw him with that shoulder brace on the sideline looking real dejected yesterday. Baltimore took it to those guys. We'll just see how that shoulder is. Tell him to get his shoulder right. Oucho Cinco."
Last year Tennessee was on the wrong side of a 35-6 score in Cincinnati. Johnson followed up a TD catch by jumping on a TV camera platform and taking over the controls.
"He's going to be on camera all day Sunday," Bulluck said. "With his shoulder I don't expect him to run too many shallow crosses. I'm putting it out there for him to bite it and I know he will. We're definitely ready just for the simple fact we kind of got embarrassed last year up there. It helped them forget they weren't having a great season."
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Ocho Cinco stepped on the field moments ago with his old "C. Johnson" jersey.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Here are the most interesting stories in the AFC North:
- Pittsburgh city mayor Luke Ravenstahl is urging all city employees to wear black and gold Friday in support of the Steelers' season opener Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Morning take: This is further proof that few pro sports teams are woven into the city's fabric quite like the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Cleveland Browns linebacker Antwan Peek went down with a season-ending knee injury, which means rookie seventh-round pick Alex Hall has a chance to step in.
Morning take: We've liked Alex Hall since minicamp. Now "Kamerion Wimbley-lite" gets a chance to show what he can do.
- Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Willie Anderson agreed to a three-year, $11 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens Thursday.
Morning take: Guess which team just received additional insight on Cincinnati's offense for Sunday's game?
- The NFL and Bengals say it's official: Introducing Chad Ocho Cinco.
Morning take: Win and produce, and Mr. 8-5 can do whatever he wants. Lose and play poorly, and there will be some finger-pointing his way after drawing so much attention.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Credit Chad Ocho Cinco for staying one step ahead of the NFL.
For the past couple years, he's wanted to wear "Ocho Cinco" on the back of his jersey without penalty and now he can.
The Cincinnati Bengals' Pro Bowl receiver had a legal name change in his home state of Florida last week. On Thursday the NFL and the Bengals recognized the change.
But the Bengals' finish this season will determine whether this stunt is perceived as either silly or sly.
If the team is playoff bound in December, Ocho Cinco will no doubt be one of the talks of the league. If the team finishes 4-12, no one will be laughing unless it's at Ocho Cinco and the entire Bengals organization.
It's really up to Mr. 8-5 and his teammates.
So far Ocho Cinco, who is 30, has just uno winning season during his siete-year career.
He's a tremendous player with tremendous talent. But you start to wonder at this point if he will be remembered more for his ability or his antics. Both are extraordinary.
Last season Ocho Cinco was viewed as a disturbance to his team, which was probably overblown. But when these types of stunts are pulled, right or wrong, it makes him an easy target when things go awry.
There's a fine line between being an attraction and a distraction, and with his flamboyant personality the receiver walks that tightrope everyday with the Bengals.
Winning or losing will ultimately determine which category Chad Ocho Cinco falls into this season.
|Ray Lewis, left, has advised Chad "Ocho Cinco" Johnson, right, through a tumultuous offseason.|
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
One of those players is Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, whom Lewis consoled during a tumultuous offseason that included numerous trade requests, right ankle surgery, and demands for a new contract.
After a series of public explosions, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, a former defensive coordinator in Baltimore, urged Ray Lewis to counsel Johnson -- who legally changed his name to "Ocho Cinco" last week.
Whatever Ray Lewis told Johnson has worked, as the Bengals' receiver says he is now "super, extra focused" on football and the 2008 regular season.
"What I told him is just whatever you have going on, think of God," Ray Lewis told reporters in Baltimore this week. "Let God deal with that. Just understand that you're a role model for so many people. So many young kids want to be in the position you're in. They want to follow Chad Johnson."
Ironically, both stars will face off in a big AFC North battle when the Ravens host the Bengals on Sunday. Both teams struggled in the preseason and could use a division win to jump-start its season.
Both players want to be at the top of their game when they face off Sunday. When asked if he had any regrets about helping a division rival, particularly before the season opener, Ray Lewis said he didn't mind helping Johnson get to this point.
"No, not really, because he's a friend," Ray Lewis said. "You don't care about wins and losses when it comes down to brotherhood and competition. That's why I love when we play against Chad Johnson and play against those guys like that, because you're going to get their best, and that's why you play the game."