Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Ravens safety Ed Reed is backpedalling once again, saying he now plans on playing in 2012 and beyond.
Reed created a stir Thursday when he told SiriusXM NFL Radio that he was "not 100 percent committed right now to playing this year." He has since changed his stance.
"It's not about retirement, it's about my focus in the offseason, health, family and football," Reed said in a statement given to the Carroll County (Md.) Times. "This is the time of year where players think through things. My goal is to play football in the years to come."
In his interview on SiriusXM, Reed indicated that he was in "deep thought" about whether he would attend the team's mandatory minicamp in June. He said there are "other things" taking place in his life that are making him think differently.
Reed talked at length about his relationship with general manager Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens, mentioning a lack of support and “mental” issues that they were going through. He is also entering the final year of his contract.
“It has nothing to do with negotiating and all that, man,” Reed told SiriusXM. “It’s deeper than negotiating, man.”
Hensley's slant: No one reads quarterbacks better than Reed, but he might be the hardest player to read in the game right now. I'm done guessing what Reed is trying to communicate. It's like you need an interpreter to get the real meaning of his quotes. As I wrote Thursday, I won't believe he is going to retire until he actually walks away from the game.
BENGALS: The key for rookie defensive tackle pick Devon Still is to improve his down-to-down consistency. Last year's Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year slid to the second round because of his hot-and-cold motor. "He's a very talented guy and I want him to push himself past where he has gone," Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes told the Bengals' official website. "I want him where he's not taking a blow on the field. Part of it was he didn't come out very much. He felt like he had to conserve his energy. We don’t have that issue." Hensley's slant: Even though Still isn't expected to start, he will play a lot of snaps in his first season. The strength of the Bengals' defensive line last season was rotating players throughout the game and keeping everyone fresh. Thickly built with a large wingspan, Still certainly looks the part of a dominant interior linemen.
BROWNS: There have been questions about Trent Richardson's long-term durability given his bruising running style. But the Browns' first-round running back told the NFL Network that he won't avoid contact in the NFL and will continue to take on tacklers. "I'm not going to change my game," Richardson said. “That’s who I am. That’s how I got here, that’s how I made the progress to be who I am today. So when it comes down to it, I’m still going to do what I do. I have a lot of pride in my football and the football skills God blessed me with. I’m just here to make a big difference on this team, so I’m trying to get everybody on the same page.” Hensley's slant: Richardson shouldn't change his style. One of the reasons why the Browns drafted him was because his toughness fit the division. And a big part of his game is gaining yards after contact. Running backs must avoid the mindset of "don't get hurt" because that's when they often get hurt.
STEELERS: Rookie second-round pick Mike Adams will get the first crack at being the Steelers' starting left tackle, a source close to the situation told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. There was speculation by the paper Thursday that Marcus Gilbert could shift from right to left tackle. Now, it looks like Pittsburgh will begin camp with Adams starting on the left side and Gilbert staying on the right. Hensley's slant: Adams has to prove he is strong enough to start immediately. As many pointed out, Adams did only 19 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the combine, which is a disappointing number for an offensive lineman. But starting Adams puts the Steelers' best five linemen on the field.