AFC North: White House
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
As always, feel free to send your thoughts to our AFC North mailbag. Let's answer some questions.
Jared from Anchorage, Alaska writes: Hey James, I was wondering why Carson Palmer puts up with the distraction of Chad JOHNSON? I know, I know, he's good and all, but he can be replaced more easily than the other 52 players on the roster that don't need a distraction. Palmer obviously is tired of the distraction, so why not just say, "Hey, it's me or him?"
James Walker: Palmer is one of the nicest athletes in the NFL and not the type to put that kind of pressure on Cincinnati Bengals' management, Jared. Some would say as a quarterback that is to his detriment. But I do think there is still a chance to mend fences. Let's be honest about the situation: Ochocinco hasn't missed anything mandatory. If this was someone else, it wouldn't be as big a deal. Former teammate T.J. Houshmandzadeh skipped voluntary workouts in Cincinnati all the time when he was unhappy with his contract. But Houshmandzadeh showed up in great shape every year, put up 90- and 100-catch seasons and no harm was done. If Ochocinco shows up in good shape and has a great season, this all could blow over quickly.
Matt from Cincinnati writes: Did James Harrison make the trip to DC even though he didn't want to?
James Walker: Harrison did not make the trip to the White House, Matt. He also didn't go in 2006 after the Pittsburgh Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl. I'm still not sure of the exact reason, whether it was his reported fear of flying or something else. But it's probably time to let it go and move on.
Randy from Ft. Thomas, KY writes: James, As a Browns fan who has suffered a tough past 10 years since the return of the franchise, I was wondering if at any time over the past 10 years and four (I believe that is the right number) GM's ownership has gone why has there not been a bigger push to bring Ozzie Newsome back to Cleveland. Cleveland is where he was a HOF caliber TE and where he was groomed to be a GM. I would think that he has some loyalty to the city and team. He would make a huge difference to the heritage of this team and city.
James Walker: The Browns made one push for the Baltimore Ravens' general manager that I know of. It was in 2005 following the Butch Davis era in Cleveland. The Browns were looking for a traditional GM-coach setup for the organization and Newsome was at the top of their list. The Ravens smartly rejected, and Cleveland was forced to go down Baltimore's chain of command and grabbed Phil Savage. Newsome is very happy where he is, and I believe it will be his final NFL stop. Several league insiders I've talked to believe Newsome will eventually return to his alma mater, the University of Alabama, in a less stressful role whenever he decides to leave the NFL.
Jason from Painesville, Ohio writes: Is the holdout by Josh Cribbs and Phil Dawson a reflection of Eric Mangini's over-reaching power or is it just contract disputes from last season boiling over to the new regime?
James Walker: You cannot pin either of these situations on the new regime, Jason. Dawson and Cribbs were unhappy with their contracts a year ago. The Browns were coming off a 10-6 season and nearly everyone was getting paid. Derek Anderson got his money. Jamal Lewis got his money. Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel got huge extensions. Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams were acquired in trades and paid handsomely. Cribbs and Dawson felt left out, because they had a big part in the success as well. These were old issues carrying over. But, nonetheless, I'm interested in seeing how the new group handles it. Cribbs, by the way, returned to voluntary workouts this week.