For those who thought the AFC North blog was an Aaron Hernandez-free zone, I apologize. Blame the Bengals in today's wake-up call:
RAVENS: James Ihedigbo is looking forward to a competition for a starting safety job even though first-round pick Matt Elam is the favorite to win it. "I'm excited about the opportunity, and competition brings out the best in you," Ihedigbo told The Baltimore Sun. "Matt's a great player and a great guy. I played with his brother, Abe, with the Jets. He comes from a great pedigree. I'm excited. At the end of the day, the best 11 players will be on the field. It's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens."
BENGALS: Owner Mike Brown told Fox Sports that the team decided to pass on tight end Aaron Hernandez in the 2010 draft because of the potential for more off-field problems. The Bengals instead selected Jermaine Gresham in the first round. “That one is no secret. We just stayed away from it,” Brown told the website. “We didn’t question the playing ability. But we went for Gresham.” While the Bengals have had their share of players arrested over the years, only one draft pick (safety Robert Sands) has come from their past four draft classes, which shows they have been more discerning. In three seasons, Hernandez caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns. Gresham has 172 receptions for 1,804 yards and 15 touchdowns.
STEELERS: Nose tackle Steve McLendon believes baseball will help make him a better football player. Even though he calls baseball "the scariest sport ever," he has spent time in the batting cage focused on picking up the ball. “That is how I learned the eye coordination," McLendon told the team's official website. "If I can learn to watch the ball, it will slow the game down for me. You can see when the pitcher is going to grip the ball and his throw and windup. It’s the same with a center. You see him grip the ball, his windup is the snap. If I can catch his hand and am able to attack him, it will make me that much quicker and better applying pressure to the quarterback, running back and the offensive line.”
BROWNS: Dallas Cowboys tight end Gavin Escobar, a former college teammate of Leon McFadden, said he doesn't see the rookie third-round pick's height (5 feet 9) as an obstacle to him starting for the Browns. “I was going against him, and I wouldn’t say he’d lock me down, but he’s strong," Escobar told the Browns' official website. “He’s strong for his size, and he can jump too. I think he’ll be fine going up against those strong receivers. I didn’t go up against him a lot, being a tight end, but when I did go up against him, I always told the quarterback I was open. In reality, it was good competition and a friendly competition."