AFC North Roundup: Bengals' Eifert Injured at Pro Bowl, Steelers' Brown Still Miffed at Bengals, Ravens Replace Turf

In this week's AFC North Roundup, Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert suffers an injury during the Pro Bowl, Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is still displeased with Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict and the Baltimore Ravens move back to natural grass.

The NFL’s Pro Bowl is mostly a unnecessary exercise, a tradition that continues to be upheld despite low player interest and even lower television ratings. Typically, though, it is a harmless game, a glorified exhibition and an opportunity for players and their families to get a postseason trip to Hawaii. But there is one unwelcome side effect of football players coming together to battle on the field, no matter how low stakes it may be: Injuries.

Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert was one such casualty of last Sunday’s Pro Bowl, seemingly injuring his foot after trying to catch a high pass from Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston in the back of the end zone. Eifert hobbled off the field, quickly evaluated by trainers on the sideline. When spotted in a walking boot after the game, the fear was that whatever injury Eifert suffered could linger through the offseason and into the 2016 regular season. But after undergoing tests back in Cincinnati, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief: Eifert has a sprained left ankle, nothing worse, with rest the prescription. 

Eifert was the top-scoring tight end in 2015, with 13 touchdowns, and had 52 receptions for 615 yards. He played in 13 games, missing time near the end of the season with head and neck injuries. Drafted in 2013, Eifert’s 2014 season came to a close in Week 1, when he suffered a serious elbow fracture but he rose to prominence in 2015 as one of the Bengals’ most dangerous receiving weapons. And, luckily for him and for his team, Eifert’s ankle should be 100 percent healthy relatively soon, meaning the sprain won’t be at all a factor for his upcoming season. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: Brown Still Upset by Burfict’s, Jones’ Behavior

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown hasn’t forgotten the hit he took from Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs last month, a hit that resulted in a concussion and Brown missing the following week’s Divisional playoff meeting with the Denver Broncos. And he hasn’t forgotten about Bengals cornerback Adam Jones accusing him of faking his concussion, either.

Brown made the media rounds in advance of Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 matchup between the Broncos and the Carolina Panthers, and each time addressed Burfict’s behavior and Jones’ response to the hit. On ESPN’s First Take on Thursday, Brown said of Jones, “I didn't recall the hit until I actually got to the sideline. For him to say that was just disheartening,” adding, “Those guys lost the game. They are going to make every excuse to make it seem like it wasn't his fault.” Of Burfict, Brown said it was a “for sure” dirty hit, and that “they just want to take me out of the game.”

Brown wasn’t done, though. He later appeared on the NFL Networks’ Super Bowl HQ, saying he wasn’t interested in Jones’ apology: “I think he texted me, but I was really upset. A guy goes on national TV and says I'm an actor towards anything that regards the game. I'm a true professional. I don't play no acting games and I take pride in my work and being a professional.” He also called Burfict “an idiot” on the Dan Patrick Show, and said on PFT Live that Burfict hasn’t reached out to him at all, and that, “You know what kind of guy he is. What type of player he is. He’s a real unprofessional-like player. An undisciplined player.”

For what it’s worth, Brown is looking forward to next season’s two meetings between the Steelers and Bengals and hopes they take place after Burfict serves his three-game suspension, handed down in part because of the playoff hit on Brown. And Brown has been completely cleared of his concussion by the league and has already begun training for the 2016 season. It’s unlikely we’ve seen the last chapter in the battle between the two AFC North rivals, but the hope is that the casualties will be somewhere closer to zero the next time they meet.

Baltimore Ravens: Ravens Begin Tearing up Turf, Grass Returning Soon

The Baltimore Ravens will return to a natural grass playing surface for the first time since 2002 this upcoming season, but before the grass can be planted, the existing artificial turf must be removed. That process began on Thursday, reports The Baltimore Sun’s Jon Meoli.

Don Follett, the Ravens’ head groundskeeper, said this will be a multistep process to remove the turf—technically, Shaw Industries Momentum 51 artificial turf—that has been in place since 2010. Then, they will install a root layer for the new Bermuda grass, before installing the grass around May 1.

Follett said, “Originally, the stadium here was real grass, so it’s not that much more to change it,” adding, “Underneath this turf is about an eight- or nine-inch stone layer that was brought in here for the artificial turf to be on. That stone layer will be pulled out, It’ll take about a week to 10 days to pull out that stone layer.” After that, the “root zone,” a mix of sand, peat moss and dirt, will take about a month to properly prepare, eventually reaching about 10 inches high. Then, an irrigation system will be installed before the grass is placed on top. 

Most of the former turf will be sent off to be recycled. But the Ravens are keeping some of it, from between the 20 yard lines, to cut into small squares, placed in commemorative cases and be offered for sale to fans, closer to the preseason. There will also be larger pieces of the turf sold during the team’s third annual Retail Outlet Sale in late April, with proceeds benefitting the Ravens Foundation.

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