Training camp officially begins in the AFC North today, when the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns have their first full-team practices. The Cincinnati Bengals take the field Friday, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have their first practice on Saturday. Here's your wake-up call ...
RAVENS: The Baltimore Sun's Peter Schmuck tackles the issue of why the Ravens have been reluctant to embrace their Super Bowl champion status. "You get the feeling that the organization has been bracing for six weeks of questions about last year at a time when old-school football coaches like Harbaugh want every player to be totally focused on this year," Schmuck wrote. "You get the feeling that if he had his way, he'd put the new Lombardi Trophy in Witness Protection. There is some logic there. The last thing you want to do in the NFL is spend a lot of time beating your chest about who you used to be while you're trying to establish who you are going to be, but there's a reason why every team creates a big glitzy diamond-studded championship ring to distribute to the players and staff, and it's not to help them forget that they won the Super Bowl."
BENGALS: Right tackle Andre Smith is beginning training camp on the Non-Football Injury list with a calf injury that's not believed to be serious, according to the team's official website. This is the latest setback for Smith, who skipped all of the offseason voluntary workouts as well as the mandatory minicamp because of personal reasons. According to the website, Smith looked in good shape and he reportedly appeared to be at around his playing weight. Three players who didn't practice in the spring -- left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee), center Trevor Robinson (shoulder) -- will be available for the first practice of training camp.
STEELERS: Coach Mike Tomlin told the team's official website that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to be a leader this year. "He needs to be what his teammates need him to be, formally and informally, on the field and off. Not only is he a capable player, but he’s a veteran one," Tomlin said. "He understands the drill, what we’re doing here and what we aspire to do. He needs to be a shining example of all of those things for our young players."
BROWNS: It sounds like the Browns aren't going to stand for another mistake from wide receiver Josh Gordon, who was suspended two games by the NFL for violating the substance abuse policy. "He spent a fair amount of time talking to (head coach Rob Chudzinski) and he’s got to do some work and he understands he’s going to be held accountable and he gets (that) the rope that’s left isn’t long," Banner said Wednesday, via The Plain Dealer. "In working with the coaches, they need to see that commitment, that work ethic. Obviously, off the field he needs to make good choices."