- Jamison Hensley, ESPN Staff Writer
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Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Troy Smith is not giving up on his dream of playing quarterback in the NFL after getting cut by the Steelers nearly two weeks ago.
Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2006, said a few teams contacted him the day he was cut, but he doesn't know where he'll play again.
"We'll just keep plugging and plugging," Smith told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The Plain Dealer reported that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told Smith he thought he could start in this league and wanted to let him go early enough to catch on with another team. Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, who drafted Smith in the fifth round in 2007, said Smith can "definitely" play in the NFL.
Hensley's slant: Time appears to be running out for Smith. He wasn't going to be the No. 2 quarterback for the Steelers, who have Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch. But it could be tough for him to catch on to another team. The Dolphins passed on him last August, and despite Newsome's positive comments, the Ravens didn't re-sign him.
BENGALS: The Cincinnati Enquirer posted some historical statistics that "might make you cringe." Perhaps the most cringe-worthy is this one: Of the 28 teams that were in the NFL in 1983, every franchise has made back-to-back playoff appearances except the Bengals. The expansion Texans and Panthers have never made consecutive trips to the postseason. Even the Browns, who weren't in the league for three seasons, went to the postseason in five straight seasons (1985-89). Hensley's slant: The Bengals have actually enjoyed a good amount of success recently. They've been to the playoffs three times since 2005, the same amount as the Cowboys over that span. The problem has been maintaining consistent success.
BROWNS: The NFL Players Association filed a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of three players suspended in connection with the bounty investigation, including Browns linebacker Scott Fujita. The suit calls commissioner Roger Goodell "incurably and evidently biased." This comes after the players' appeals were shot down by Goodell. "The investigation and arbitration process that the Commissioner's public relations machinery touted as 'thorough and fair' has, in reality, been a sham," the lawsuit stated. Hensley's slant: Fujita only has himself to blame when it comes to the process. He was on the NFLPA executive committee that signed off on Goodell's powerful role in the new collective bargaining agreement. I'm guessing many players are going to regret giving Goodell so much authority.
RAVENS: In trying to land the backup quarterback job, Curtis Painter is adjusting to a new playbook and new teammates. But he isn't dealing with new faces everywhere. Quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell was Painter's head coach last season when both were with the Indianapolis Colts. “Anytime you come into a new situation and have a little bit of familiarity, to have a player or a coach you know, it definitely helps out,” Painter told the Carroll County (Md.) Times. “Having him as the quarterbacks coach and being in that room, we’ve obviously had a relationship. So, that makes it an easier transition." Hensley's slant: Painter's ties to Caldwell might have helped him in beating out Dennis Dixon and Kyle Boller in an offseason tryout, but Painter hasn't received any guarantees, especially when you look at his contract. He signed a one-year, $615,000 deal that doesn't include a signing bonus. Still, the battle between Painter and Tyrod Taylor will be one of the interesting ones to watch in Ravens training camp.