AFC North: Training camp

Here are the latest happenings Thursday evening in the AFC North:
Here are the latest happenings Wednesday in the AFC North:

AFC North camp roundup

August, 9, 2011
The AFC North blog is in Georgetown, Ky. with the Cincinnati Bengals. But let's take a look at the latest happenings with the other teams in the division:
The Cleveland Browns enter 2011 training camp with injuries to two key offensive starters. Starting left guard Eric Steinbach and No. 1 receiver Mohamed Massaquoi will begin the season on the non-football injury/active list.

Steinbach has a knee injury and Massaquoi reportedly wore a boot on his ankle Saturday. It is unknown how either player suffered their ailments.

The time frame for recovery will be key, particularly for Massaquoi. The lockout has hindered Cleveland from working much in the new West Coast offense, and Browns second-year quarterback Colt McCoy needs as much time as possible with his top receiver before the start of the regular season.

Update: Browns tight end Ben Watson also suffered a blow to the head and was knocked out of practice Saturday.
Here are the most interesting stories Tuesday in the AFC North:
  • Following their pending release, the Baltimore Ravens reportedly want receiver Derrick Mason and tight end Todd Heap back at a lower price.
Morning take: Both are among quarterback Joe Flacco's favorite targets. But with a tight salary cap, the Ravens were willing to cut some age and high salaries. It will be a matter of whether or not Mason and/or Heap will take less to stay in Baltimore.
Morning take: As you can see with the Ravens, you can't put anything past teams during this crazy period. The difference is Cincinnati is more than $35 million under the cap and can easily absorb Ochocinco's salary. So there's at least a chance he stays.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he isn't sure at this point if his players will receive NFL discipline.
Morning take: Rooney confirmed that troubled players can be subject by league punishment, even during the lockout. But don't expect James Harrison or Hines Ward to miss any games for their transgressions.
Morning take: Cleveland needs to get to work ASAP, because it has a lot of ground to make up. A solid training camp could help them avoid a slow start.
Here are the latest happenings Thursday evening in the AFC North:

AFC North update: Steelers' camp

July, 11, 2011
Here are the latest happenings Monday evening in the AFC North:
Even if Adam Jones avoids suspension and is correct in claiming he was wrongfully arrested over the weekend, it appears the Cincinnati Bengals might have additional concerns with the embattled cornerback.

Jones, who missed the final 11 games in 2010 following a season-ending neck injury, wore a neck brace and did not look like a player who will be ready for full contact in training camp at the end of the month. In fact, Jones revealed in a television interview with WCPO in Cincinnati that he recently had surgery.

"I've been in a neck brace for four weeks," Jones admitted. "I just had surgery."

Neck injuries are always concerning, and because of the lockout, Jones has not been able to rehab with the Bengals this offseason. Cincinnati is counting on Jones this season, especially if the team refuses to pay market value for pending free-agent corner Johnathan Joseph.

Jones' legal and health situations certainly will be something to keep an eye on this summer.
Here are the latest happenings Friday in the AFC North:
Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC North:
  • Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed responds to his No. 5 ranking on the NFL Network's top 100, which was voted by the players.
Morning take: Reed was rated one spot ahead of Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. I wanted to stay away from another "Troy Reed" debate this week. But feel free to dig in.
Morning take: As we mentioned Wednesday, each day without a collective bargaining agreement makes it tough for an off-site training camp. The Steelers trained at St. Vincent College for 45 consecutive years, but the streak is in doubt with the NFL lockout.
  • Will quarterback Jake Delhomme become a cap casualty for the Cleveland Browns?
Morning take: Unless the Browns want to pay $5.4 million for a third-string quarterback, I don't see how Delhomme can return under his current deal.
  • Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens wants to do a television sitcom loosely based on his life.
Morning take: Owens has his eye on his next career, which is commendable. Many players struggle in their next phase of life, but acting could fill that void for Owens.
The Baltimore Ravens were the first AFC North team to drop out the race. Due to labor uncertainty, the Ravens pulled the plug on holding their annual training camp in Westminster, Md.

Are the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals next?

Each day that goes by without a new collective bargaining agreement, Latrobe, Pa., and Georgetown, Ky., get closer and closer to missing NFL football this summer. Both small towns look forward to the Steelers and Bengals bringing excitement and business every year.

But with camps scheduled to start at the end of the month, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati may have a tough decision to make. Holding training camp away from the practice facility can be a logistical nightmare if time is an issue. The Ravens backed out primarily because they didn't feel they could properly plan and ship all the equipment to Westminster in a short period of time.

With a new CBA still uncertain, a reduced training camp also could factor in the decision. If camps and preseason games are sliced in half, for example, it's probably not worth it for teams to train away from its facilities this year.

These next two weeks are huge for labor negotiations. If there's not enough progress after that point, expect teams like the Steelers and Bengals to start backing out of their training camp commitments.
Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday in the AFC North:
  • Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis called New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady "the greatest of greats."
Morning take: Lewis has always been very respectful of Brady, who deserves every accolade. On the other hand, Ravens teammate Terrell Suggs hasn't been as complimentary.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Ramon Foster said he talked to several players who said their teams didn't vote for the NFL Network's top 100.
Morning take: There are a lot of players, via Twitter, who say they didn't participate. I wish this would get cleared up.
Morning take: The absence of the collective bargaining agreement makes for nervous times in Georgetown. We will have more on this later today.
  • Cleveland Browns starting quarterback Colt McCoy held a camp for kids.
Morning take: This time "Camp Colt" didn’t involve the Browns. McCoy went back to Abilene, Texas, to give back to the youth, which is commendable.
On Friday we took at look at the most underrated players in the AFC North division. The list included left tackle Andrew Whitworth of the Cincinnati Bengals, linebacker Jarret Johnson of the Baltimore Ravens, tight end Benjamin Watson of the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

But those aren't the only players under the radar. Here is a look at several more players in the division to keep an eye on in 2011:

Jordan Shipley, WR, Bengals

Analysis: The Bengals were looking for a slot receiver in last year's draft and found a good one in Shipley. Cincinnati has struggled in that area since the loss of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but Shipley did well with 52 receptions for 600 yards and three touchdowns in 2010. The rookie quickly became a favorite of quarterback Carson Palmer, who liked Shipley's smarts, good routes and sure hands. The Bengals are switching to a new West Coast offense this season under Jay Gruden, and it will be important to keep Shipley involved.

Isaac Redman, RB, Steelers

Analysis: Redman, who was undrafted in 2009, impressed Pittsburgh's coaching staff in training camp and on the practice squad as a rookie. But he finally received a shot to make the Steelers 53-man roster as a backup last season and made the most of his opportunities. Spelling Rashard Mendenhall, Redman punished defenses to the tune of 4.8 yards per carry in 2010. The Steelers probably will use him more in the offense this season. Redman is strong between the tackles and good at getting tough yards to move the chains.

Scott Fujita, LB, Browns

Analysis: Fujita was an under-the-radar signing by Browns president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert, and it worked out in the first year. Fujita brought much-needed toughness and leadership to Cleveland's defense and finished with 51 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception in nine games. A knee injury eventually ended his season, and it was no coincidence Cleveland's defense went downhill after losing Fujita in November.

Sam Koch, P, Ravens

Analysis: Baltimore's kicking game was arguably the NFL's best last season, and half of that was due to Koch's punting. Place kicker Billy Cundiff received most of the publicity for his record-tying year with kickoffs and accurate field goals. But Koch was just as good punting the ball with an impressive 39 punts inside the 20. The Ravens showed their appreciation by signing Koch to a five-year extension before the lockout began this offseason.
Remember Limas Sweed?

He was a former second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers who joined the team in 2008 with high expectations. But for the past three seasons, Sweed has experienced disappointments and injuries, and now he's the forgotten man among Pittsburgh's wide receivers.

Sweed has gone from a high-profile draft pick to a player who enters training camp this summer on the roster bubble. At best, Sweed is currently sixth on the depth chart behind receivers Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and Antwaan Randle El. Pittsburgh also could add more competition once free agency begins.

The numbers game could be too much for Sweed. He has the talent, size and speed to make plays. But early issues catching the ball and not making the most of opportunities have put Sweed on a very hot seat. He's also in the final year of his rookie contract, which makes it easier for Pittsburgh to cut ties.

Can Sweed help the Steelers in 2011? A lot would have to go right.

For starters, Sweed needs to light up the preseason to begin earning the trust of his coaches and teammates. Sweed also needs to prove he is recovered from last year's Achilles injury and may need an injury or two at receiver to provide another quality opportunity. But it is clear Sweed is down to his final chance in Pittsburgh.