Every morning, grab a cup of coffee and get your AFC North wake-up call here:
Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey believes the ankle injuries that have cut short his first two NFL seasons are over.
Pouncey, who had offseason surgery on his left ankle, participated in four weeks of offseason practices. "It feels awesome," Pouncey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "the best that it's ever felt."
Pouncey said the ankle is stronger than ever and he'll be less likely to suffer sprained ankles now because of the surgery.
Hensley's slant: An injured left ankle has ruined Pouncey's postseason the past two seasons. That's why it was so important to have the surgery and stop this recurring problem. Pouncey can't afford to miss any games this year (especially in the playoffs) when he's the anchor of an offensive line that is projected to start two rookies (left tackle Mike Adams and right guard David DeCastro) and will relocate Willie Colon to left guard.
BENGALS: One concern for the Bengals this offseason was getting the timing down on the offensive line. Cincinnati is starting two new guards, free agent Travelle Wharton on the left side and rookie first-round pick Kevin Zeitler on the right. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander believes he has helped the line get in sync by giving the starters more than half of the snaps this spring. "We don't have musical chairs; everybody is lining up where everybody is going to be so that shouldn't be a problem as long as we can keep everybody together," Alexander told the Bengals' official website. Hensley's slant: Wharton and Zeitler are a significant upgrade over last year's guards. The biggest improvement will be seen in the ground game because Wharton and Zeitler excel in run blocking.
BROWNS: The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw believes a more public Mike Holmgren helps the Cleveland Browns but not as much as more wins. "If he's wrong about [coach Pat] Shurmur, whom he called a "great young coach," and if [rookie quarterback Brandon] Weeden collapses under pocket pressure rarely seen in college, Holmgren won't get points for making himself available to fans through the media," Shaw wrote. "In the meantime, though, he has correctly concluded it can't hurt to add a more frequent voice to the face of the franchise. That's him. (Which is part of the problem.) Maybe someday it will be Shurmur or Weeden, but that day isn't close." Hensley's slant: Many team presidents don't have to be visible. But Holmgren still represents hope because of his Super Bowl résumé. Until Shurmur or Weeden establishes himself, Holmgren is going to be the face of the franchise.
RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Mike Preston feels no one at Ravens headquarters is in a panic over Haloti Ngata's weight, but there has to be some concern about it. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle said he weighs about 345 pounds, but Preston said he looks anywhere from 365 to 380 pounds. "Fortunately for the Ravens, Ngata has performed well so there is a certain amount of trust he'll get the weight down in time for training camp next month," Preston wrote. Hensley's slant: Ngata spent this offseason recovering from a quadricep injury that really impacted his play in the second half of the season. So, Ngata might not have been able to train as hard as previous years. But I would be surprised if he didn't report to training camp in good shape. The Ravens have never had a problem with his conditioning.