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State of the AFC North: Ravens rehabbing, Browns sending RGIII to House

There’s a lot of rehabilitation going on in the AFC North this offseason. Lately, the Ravens are dealing with injuries to a pair of receivers, the Steelers are hoping to get Le’Veon Bell back for ‘real football’, and the Browns are trying to rehabilitate RGIII’s career.

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Ravens dealt with quite a few injury issues in 2015 and they’re hoping that things go better in 2016, but things haven’t been looking great lately. The Cleveland Browns are in the midst of yet another rebuilding year, but they’re hoping that the contributions of some new faces can help. The Pittsburgh Steelers are putting the pieces together to improve in 2016 after a relatively successful 2015 campaign, but there could be a few setbacks.

Baltimore Ravens

Breshad Perriman partially tears ACL

Update: Perriman apparently has NOT torn his ACL and is expected back this offseason. (On a side note, it's kind of crazy how rumors spin out of control so fast in the NFL, huh!?)

One of the biggest stories in the AFC North this week was the news that second year Ravens receiver, Breshad Perriman, partially tore his left anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported the news and is adding that Perriman will be undergoing surgery this week to repair the damage.

There is currently no timetable for his return as the news is relatively fresh. More specific details can be expected after his procedure is performed. However, for reference, remember that Panthers’ receiver Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL in last year’s offseason and missed his entire sophomore season because of it. The recovery time really depends on the extent of the tear, and this is reportedly a partial tear, but there seems to be a decent chance that Perriman won't need to miss the entire season.

It has been a rough start for Perriman in the NFL so far. He was unable to get onto the field at all through the first 12 weeks of his rookie season due to a sprained partial cruciate ligament (PCL) suffered on the first day of training camp. After seeing no signs toward recovery, Perriman was placed on injured reserve (IR), officially ending his rookie season before it began. The Ravens hope that his recovery goes smoother in 2016, but the issues have still caused Perriman to be labeled as ‘injury prone’ by critics. It’s a label that other Ravens receivers think is unfair to the young player.

"These aren't injuries where he's not strong enough or not tough enough. When you slightly tear anything, that requires a lot of treatment and possibly surgery." Ravens receiver Steve Smith told ESPN before Lardarius Webb’s charity softball game on Sunday. "I feel bad for him as a man because you're going to hear all the naysayers who weren't there, who didn't see what happened and don't really understand you can't control injuries."

Ravens receiver Kamar Aiken also commented on his teammate. "I hope people don't label him as a guy who gets injured. He's had a rough first two years. It's nothing he could've done to change that," Aiken said.

Unfortunately for Perriman, it’s hard to not label him as ‘a guy who gets injured’. In the best case scenario, he’ll miss a significant portion of his sophomore season after missing his entire rookie campaign, all of that due to injuries. It’s not necessarily fair to the guy since he can’t control these things, and it’s not meant to be disrespectful, but the fact of the matter is, he could potentially be set back two years. At the very least, there seems to be cause for some concern in Baltimore.

Steve Smith also rehabbing

Before the 2015 season, last year was going to be Steve Smith Sr.’s final year in the NFL. But, multiple injuries including a season-ending ACL tear in Week 8 against the San Diego Chargers left him hungry for a chance at redemption. So far, he has shown confidence that he will return for the start of the 2016 season. But, recently, he was a bit more hesitant to provide an exact timetable for his return.

"I don't know when I'm coming back. I just know I have to be able to do something in training camp to be able to play for the season. That's just the way I operate," Smith told ESPN on Sunday. "I can't go from doing absolutely nothing [and] sitting on my butt for all of training camp and then go out there and play."

For Ravens fans, it has to be a scary thought that they might not have either Smith or Perriman at the beginning of the season. Luckily for the Ravens, their first six games have them up against the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Washington Redskins, and New York Giants. Save for the Redskins, all of those teams finished last year at .500 or below. Nothing is ever easy in the NFL, but they’re probably glad that Smith has time to recover before they play the Jets, Steelers, and Bengals in a rough six week stretch in the middle of the season.

Cleveland Browns

Browns sign former Buccaneers kicker Patrick Murray

In 2015, Browns kicker Travis Coons successfully completed 28 of his 32 field goal attempts on the season. That’s a feat that has only been bested by Matt Stover and Phil Dawson in franchise history. Therefore, you can probably guess that his job for 2016 is relatively safe.

However, despite his impressive numbers, according to Pro Football Talk, the team still elected to sign former Buccaneers kicker Patrick Murray last week. Murray beat out veteran kicker Connor Barth in Tampa Bay during the 2014 season. He played well, hitting 20 of his 24 field goal attempts, but he lost his job to Kyle Brindza in the 2015 offseason.

It’s unlikely that the Browns are expecting Murray to win the job over the talented and productive Coons. But, they are probably bringing him in for the sake of keeping Coons’ leg relatively fresh and maybe even pushing him a bit in training camp.

The Browns released former Arizona receiver David Richards to make room for Murray.

Hue Jackson trying the ‘Dalton Plan’ with RGIII

Fair or not, Robert Griffin III is considered to be one of the biggest draft busts in recent history, given the fact that he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Redskins in 2012 and was released after the 2015 season due to a lot of poor play and very little signs of improvement. However, that didn’t stop the Browns from giving him a second chance with their organization.

The Browns seem to be committed to rehabilitating Griffin III’s career given how much natural talent he has. In fact, Browns head coach Hue Jackson seems to be utilizing a technique that he has seen work tremendously before with one of his former quarterbacks.

The quarterback is Andy Dalton and the technique was sending him to work with quarterback guru Tom House. Following Dalton’s training with House in 2015, he went on to have the best season of his career (even though he was injured in Week 14). This idea worked so well that, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Jackson is trying it again with his new quarterback, Griffin III, who is in serious need of career rehabilitation.

At the moment, the Browns have Griffin III, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, and Cody Kessler competing for a spot at the quarterback position. McCown played well as the starter in 2015, but could RGIII steal the show and improve the Browns’ quarterback position? Hue Jackson is hoping so.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Joey Porter won’t fight the NFL’s rule banning assistant coaches from the field

The new NFL rule (cough, clarification of a rule) that says assistant coaches cannot enter the field of play came a bit too late. It was a rule that potentially could have prevented Bengals players from losing their cool at the end of January's Wild Card game between the Bengals and the Steelers. That game saw the Bengals commit multiple penalties and throw away a 16-15 lead that would have otherwise seen them overcome their hated rivals for their first playoff win since 1991.

Porter was fined $10,000 for his actions, but it didn’t mean a thing to the Bengals and their fans who still had to deal with the cold sting of yet another early playoff exit. Porter himself probably wasn’t terribly happy about the fine, but he did agree to abide by the NFL’s rule change now that it has been put into place.

"Doesn't really bother me," Porter told ESPN following OTAs. "That's a rule they have in place, that's a rule we will play by."

As a Bengals fan, you really have to roll your eyes at a passive statement like that, especially given his lengthy history of instigating conflict.

"I didn't learn nothing from that experience," Porter said. "That was last year. We didn't make it to the Super Bowl. That doesn't really matter to me."

His general attitude just seems to be one of a complete and total apathy. Any NFL coach’s perspective on a game has to be something along the lines of ‘winning is the only option’, but an assorted history of unsportsmanlike conduct by Steelers coaches like Porter and Mike Tomlin have shown the organization’s attitude toward maintaining the NFL’s standards.

DeAngelo Williams confident in Le’Veon Bell’s rehab

Le’Veon Bell’s 2015 season ended when the Steelers met the Bengals for a mid-season matchup. A hit from Burfict caused Bell to tear his medial collateral ligament (MCL) and resulted in his subsequent placement on IR the very next day. Later that week, it was reported that Bell had undergone surgery to repair the damage, allowing him plenty of time to recover and prepare for the 2016 season. It’s a process that seems to be going well, according to fellow Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams.

"Soon as it's time to play real football, he'll be there," Williams told ESPN.

Having played in the NFL for 11 years at a punishing position, Williams has a pretty good perspective on what it takes to come back from an injury and remain effective as a rusher. However, he’s never quite had to deal with the consistent injury problems Bell has.

Since entering the NFL in 2013, Bell has had two of his three seasons ended due to injury (during a game against the Bengals). Granted, his hyperextended knee in 2014 was not as serious of an injury as his torn MCL in 2015. But, the hype extended knee happened in Week 17 so he did not have enough time to recover by the time the Steelers exited the playoffs after a Wild Card loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

He also suffered a mid-foot sprain in the second preseason game of his rookie year, causing him to miss the first three games of the regular season. Like Perriman, it may or may not be fair to call him injury prone at this point, but it’s a label that he will have to deal with for now and work to shed.