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State of AFC North: Ravens off to injury-plagued start; Kizer doing well for Browns

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There seems to be no end in sight to Le’Veon Bell’s absence from camp. DeShone Kizer is earning the praise of his teammates and coaches. The Ravens could add Colin Kaepernick if they feel comfortable with the non-football aspects of the move. But, their injury concerns mounting and becoming a bigger problem.

NFL: Cleveland Browns-Training Camp Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Now that training camp has kicked off, let’s take a look at the other teams in the AFC North. The Baltimore Ravens are putting a lot of thought into signing Colin Kaepernick. But, they’re having so many injury issues that things are getting dire in Baltimore. DeShone Kizer has started collecting the admiration of his teammates and coaches in Cleveland. And, Le’Veon Bell doesn’t seem to be putting an end to the battle he and the Steelers have been having all offseason.

Baltimore Ravens

Ravens owner considering non-football factors with Kaepernick

By now just about everyone in America has formed an opinion on Colin Kaepernick, and whether he deserves to play in the NFL again. After beginning a protest last season when he would take a knee during the national anthem, he became one of the most polarizing figures in the NFL.

After an offseason as a free agent, it surprised some people that Kaepernick didn’t have the chance to hop on an NFL roster. Early rumors included Kaepernick wanted too much money and a chance at starting. The validity of these rumors can be debated, but none of us will actually know. One of the most recent excuses for Kaepernick not being on a roster is because he isn’t a good enough quarterback. Well the Ravens just disproved that notion.

Steve Bisciotti, the Ravens owner described the process of running the move by players like Joe Flacco and Benjamin Watson to see what they thought. According to baltimoreravens.com, the team also spoke with Ray Lewis, fans, and sponsors about the potential harm this move could have.

It’s disappointing that protesting seems to be holding this guy back from getting a second chance. Players who have run dog rings, drove drunk and beat women have all gotten second chances in this league.

Kaepernick may not be a guy who can take a team to the Super Bowl anymore. He was a surprise that every team figured out, but there are worse quarterbacks in the league than the former 49ers quarterback.

Baltimore signs TE Donnell after losing Gillmore for year

With injuries mounting, the Ravens signed former New York Giants’ tight end, Larry Donnell. Donnell is added to a group that recently lost Dennis Pitta and more recently, Crockett Gillmore who will miss the season with an MCL injury

Donnell serves as an insurance policy, and maybe a kick in the butt to the players lower on the depth chart. Donnell is probably most famous for putting up three touchdowns against Washington in 2014, which made him a hot commodity in fantasy football at the time. However, he has done nothing to build on that performance. Since that game he has a total of three touchdowns over two seasons, and he has less than 50 receptions over that period as well.

This move gives Donnell a chance to prove he wasn’t a one hit wonder, or at the very least get a paycheck or two.

Other Ravens injuries

  • Rookie fourth round offensive lineman Nico Siragusa tore three ligaments in his left knee and is done for the season. He was projected to be a backup this season, but had been doing well in training camp.
  • Cornerback Maurice Canady is out indefinitely with a knee injury.
  • Wide receiver Breshad Perriman is dealing with a hamstring injury, though it’s not expected to be serious.
  • Wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo is dealing with a back injury.
  • Quarterback Joe Flacco is still dealing with a back injury, too.
  • Cornerback Sheldon Price, center Brandon Kublanow and wide receiver Kenny Bell are all dealing with minor injuries, too.

The Bengals play the Ravens in Week 1 at Paul Brown Stadium.

Cleveland Browns

Britt is super high on Kizer

Just a few days into camp, little has been done to slow down the DeShone Kizer hype train. The newest member to step aboard is Browns wide receiver Kenny Britt, who is easily the most experienced of all skill position player Cleveland has.

"He's growing each day, each day,'' Britt told Mary Kay Cabot during training camp. "From OTAs, I could tell he was a different person. I actually asked him yesterday has the offense slowed down for him. He said, 'Yes,' and I could tell that he's looking at certain things. He's seeing the defense before the snap count, and once he lines up, he knows there's certain things he has to do, and he's going to be one of the great ones.''

Britt makes it clear that Kizer isn’t at the level already, but it is still a pretty important endorsement for a player who has been collecting them recently.

Hue Jackson even made sure to tell the media about how much his young quarterback has improved during his short time with the team.

"Yes, he is [ahead of schedule],'' Jackson told cleveland.com. "He's understanding the offense. I could take you back to his days at OTAs - he struggled calling the plays. The words were a lot simpler. The language was a different. I did not see as much of that today. That is improvement. Obviously, he made some good throws and did not turn the ball over. Those things are good.”

It’ll be interesting to see if Kizer can rise up the depth chart quickly and give Cleveland some hope for the future. The Browns’ offense is super young, but the more they play together the better they could be in the future.

Njoku could have an immediate impact

Speaking of rookie difference makers, tight end David Njoku isn’t shy about his plans for having an impact next season.

“I am confident in myself, but I am also very humble,” Njoku said via WKYC. “I think if I just keep working really hard -- I made it this far. I know God has a plan. I am just going to keep working, keep studying, keep praying and see how far that takes me.”

The Browns traded back into the first round to make sure they got Njoku. He is pretty much the definition of a physical freak. At 6’4” and 245 pounds, Njoku runs like a receiver. While his numbers from two years at Miami don’t jump off the stat sheet, Njoku’s measurables show his potential in this league. Combine that with the fact he is only 20-years-old and it makes the move to grab him in the draft look that much better.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Bell absent from camp; no sign of when he will show up

I thought I’d be done with weekly updates about Le’Veon Bell, but here we are. The running back currently isn’t attending training camp after he and the Steelers failed to come to terms on a long term deal.

The downside for the Steelers with the franchise tag is until Bell signs his $12 million tender, he has no obligation to show up to camp. He has no contract requiring him to be there.

"I guess when it comes to camp and doing extra things when I'm training, I can't be as aggressive as I normally would be because there's no longevity," Bell told ESPN. "But I'm still going to be out there and be Le'Veon Bell. ... The way I train, all it's going to take for me is a few practices and some game action. I haven't thought about it that far. I'm game planning today. I was thinking the deal would be done. I'm going to take it day to day and see what happens."

This sounds like it could possibly spell trouble for the Steelers. First off, Bell seems to already be thinking about staying healthy, which he has the right to be considering if he suffers a major injury it could cost him millions. Second, it seems like Bell is in no rush to get to camp, and he seems to think he just needs a few games to get into the swing of things. That may work, but It could really hurt his initial production, which could end up hurting the Steelers early in the season.

This could be a lot to do about nothing, but it isn’t great that Bell isn’t in a rush to join his team.

Golson among several players to go down with injuries

The first day of pads always seem to hit every NFL team pretty hard with injuries, but the Steelers could’ve suffered an injury to a young player they were hoping to finally get on the field.

Senquez Golson was carted off the field Sunday at Steelers’ practice with a hamstring injury. Golson hasn’t played a single game yet after suffering two significant leg injuries, since being drafted in the second round of the 2015 draft. Pittsburgh was hoping he could compete for one of the cornerback spots available. It was a non-contact injury, which often spells disaster and it would be unfortunate for Golson to lose another season.

Other Steelers injuries

  • Rookie running back James Conner is dealing with a shoulder injury.
  • Quarterback Landry Jones is dealing with a minor abdominal injury.
  • Defensive end Stephon Tuitt is battling through an ankle injury.
  • Linebacker Ryan Shazier missed some time due to a heat-related sickness.