Around the AFC North

The Ravens load up, the Steelers try to survive vacation, and the Bengals party like it's 2006...


The Ravens added two veterans during their break leading up to training camp, signing backup quarterback Marc Bulger and safety Ken Hamlin.

Both are considered insurance policies. Bulger gives Baltimore an experienced backup if Joe Flacco gets injured, and Hamlin is a good "safety" net if Pro Bowl defensive back Ed Reed is slow to recover from hip surgery.

The acquisition of Bulger, 33, is an indication that the Ravens are not confident in either Troy Smith or John Beck as Flacco's backup. If the Ravens try to shop Smith, they can't expect more than a sixth-round pick for him.

Bulger took over as a starter for an injured Kurt Warner in 2003, led the Rams to a 12-4 record and was named that season to the Pro Bowl. He was a Pro Bowl reserve in 2006, when he passed for more than 4,000 yards and threw 24 touchdown passes, with eight interceptions.

He has not played well the past three seasons, hampered by injuries and a porous offensive line, throwing more interceptions (34) than touchdown passes (27).

In 2009, Bulger played in only nine games, starting eight, and threw for five touchdowns and six interceptions before he was placed on injured reserve in late December. He was released in April after the Rams used the first overall pick on Sam Bradford.

Like Bulger, Hamlin, 29, is a solid backup plan. The Ravens are unsure of the recovery timetable for Reed, who isn't expected to be ready for training camp after having a hip procedure last month.

Known as a hard hitter and "a quarterback in the secondary", Hamlin impressed the Ravens in a recent tryout, which came two months after he was released by the Dallas Cowboys.

"It's definitely a good opportunity for me to go to an organization and a defense and a team that Baltimore has," Hamlin told The Baltimore Sun. "I'm blessed to be a part of it. I'm glad that the organization looked at me as an option to play on the team. I'm just happy."

Before Hamlin, the Ravens' only option to replace Reed was Tom Zbikowski, who looked solid in four starts last season. But one of Hamlin's greatest assets is being a leader in the secondary. According to the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys coaches liked his ability to communicate and line up everybody in the defensive backfield.

The addition of Hamlin also gives experienced depth to a safety position that is banged up with Reed and backup Haruki Nakamura (ankle). Reed, who is recovering in Colorado, is expected to miss the start of training camp at the very least. The only healthy veterans there are Zbikowski and Dawan Landry.

A seven-year starter with the Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks, Hamlin said the Ravens haven't told him about his role on the team.

"Right now, my role is to learn as much as possible," he said. "We'll see where they want me and how they're going to use me from there. I've got a lot of catching up to do because a lot of those guys have been on that defense for a while. They're comfortable with it, and I have to make sure I'm comfortable with it as well."


At least on one level, it's beginning to look a lot like 2006 again for the Cincinnati Bengals, which in this case would not be a good thing.

With Cedric Benson's arrest in Austin, Texas, on Tuesday, when he was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching a bar employee in the face on May 30, the Bengals have had three players arrested this offseason.

On Jan. 29, Rey Maualuga was charged with DUI in Covington and on May 4 Maurice Purify was charged with disorderly conduct in Newport. Add that on top of the signings of cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and receiver Matt Jones, who had a history of off-field problems and many fans are wondering if this will ever end. In a 16-month period from December of 2005 to March of 2007, the Bengals had 15 arrests.

Of Benson's incident assistant public relations director P.J. Combs said the team is aware of the incident.

"However, as with most situations of this nature, it would be inappropriate for the team to comment until the matter is resolved through normal legal channels," Combs said.

Benson's attorney, David Cornwell, said that Benson called coach Marvin Lewis and the commissioner's office about the incident. If found guilty, he could face up to $4,000 in fines and up to a year in jail.

The bigger question on the field is if Benson will be suspended. He is subject to disciplinary action under the NFL's personal conduct policy even if he is found not guilty. In 2008 while with the Chicago Bears, Benson was arrested twice over a one-month span on alcohol charges that eventually were dropped.

Judging by commissioner Roger Goodell's recent comments though about Tennessee quarterback Vince Young, who also was recently involved in a club scuffle, it looks as if Benson could avoid a suspension since it appears that Goodell will not take action against Young.

In the event Benson is suspended, Cedric Peerman's chances of making the roster will get a lot better. He has a short, thick build that can handle running between the tackles as well as that speed to put it in another gear once getting into the open field. The roster currently shows five backs vying for three spots with Benson, Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard the overwhelming favorites. College free agent Cordera Eason is a longshot.

This also could not come at a worse time for Benson, who is in the final season of a two-year contract with the Bengals and could earn as much as $4 million this season. The two sides have been in talks about a possible three-year extension under which Benson could earn $16-$20 million.

Benson, who until now had had no problems since signing with the Bengals four games into the 2008 season, has said he would like to remain with the team. Last season, he led the Bengals in rushing with a career-high 1,251 yards and set a team single-season record with seven games of 100 yards or more. In 24 career games with Cincinnati, Benson has totaled 2,167 yards and nine touchdowns rushing.


The offseason for the Pittsburgh Steelers has proven to be more dangerous than anything that occurs in the fall. Two more Steelers were knocked out with injuries, joining a growing list.

Willie Colon, considered by Steelers coaches to be one of the best right tackles in the league, had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn Achilles tendon that was injured during agility training. Rookie offensive tackle Chris Scott, a fifth-round draft choice from Tennessee, had surgery Wednesday to repair a broken foot, injured while he was working out at his alma mater.

Colon will go on injured reserve for the 2010 season while Scott could be placed on the PUP list because he should heal by October.

Colon is the second player to be lost for the season with a torn Achilles. Wide receiver Limas Sweed, a second-round draft choice in 2008, went on injured reserve after his injury on the final day of minicamp May 2.

The injuries add to the team's offseason losses on offense that includes a 4-6 suspension of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to start the season. The Steelers virtually gave away their top receiver, Santonio Holmes, in a trade to the New York Jets for a fifth-round draft choice. Coincidentally that pick, No. 151, is the one the Steelers used to draft Chris Scott.

And they also lost their top running back from 2005 through 2008 when they did not try to re-sign Willie Parker, who signed with Washington as an unrestricted free agent.

The question they now face is how to replace Colon at right tackle, where he has started the past three seasons. Max Starks, supplanted by Colon in 2007 after starting at right tackle the previous two seasons, has since become their starting left tackle. They took a look at Flozell Adams this week but are not likely to sign him. One player they signed as a UFA that took little notice at the time could move into the job, Jonathan Scott, a four-year veteran who played in Buffalo where he was coached by new Steelers line coach, Sean Kugler. Scott is 6-6, 318.

Other candidates are Trai Essex, who began his career as a tackle but became their starting right guard last season; Ramon Foster, an undrafted rookie in 2009 who played tackle at Tennessee but mostly guard with the Steelers, and Tony Hills, who has been largely a disappointment since the Steelers drafted him on the fourth round in 2008.

There also have been suggestions that they could move rookie Maurkice Pouncey, their No. 1 draft pick, to right tackle this season, but that is unlikely. Pouncey is their center of the future and they used him primarily at right guard this spring with the eye that he can play that position for one year before sliding over to center.

Colon was considered a good run-blocker but with his short arms not a great pass protector. He flourished when the new coaching staff arrived in 2007. That staff took a dim view of Starks and promoted Colon in his place.

The Steelers' offensive line has not been a good one over the past two seasons, even though the team won a Super Bowl two years ago. Their quarterback gets sacked way too often (Roethlisberger was dumped 50 times last season) and their running game has faltered, slipping to No. 19 last season. Not all of that is the line's fault, but none also is a Pro Bowl candidate.


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