CINCINNATI -- Since he has been in the NFL, A.J. Green has made Atlanta his offseason home.

While there in the spring and summer months, the former University of Georgia star trained with Calvin Johnson, a Georgia Tech legend who grew up in the city's metropolitan area. At the height of both of their pro careers, they regularly worked out together at Tech and routinely discussed the technical ins and outs of being elite receivers.

When Johnson, holder of multiple Detroit Lions all-time receiving records, first started broaching the topic of retirement with Green, the Cincinnati Bengals wideout had trouble taking him seriously.

"The way he was talking ... how his body was. He said he could play the game, but getting through the week is the tough part," Green said. "He said three years ago, 'A.J., I've got two more years. I've like two, three years and then I'm out of here after I've got nine [seasons].' I thought he was just playing."

No, he really wasn't.

Johnson retired from football this offseason, capping at age 30 a nine-year career in which he caught 731 passes for 11,619 yards and 83 touchdowns. Hall of Famer? Quite possibly.

While Green, who turns 28 on Sunday, respects the decision his friend made, don't expect him to be following in Johnson's footsteps if he can help it. As long as his body lets him, Green plans to play into his mid-30s.

"He's a big guy. His body takes a lot of pounding," Green said. "I feel like I'm more of a slim guy. My knees don't have that much wear and tear. He used to take big hits, cheap shots. The way he hit the ground all the time. That's a big body at 230 [pounds] slamming down. I think my body is set up differently. I'll be fine. I want to get at least 12 [seasons]."

GreenAP Photo/Phelan M. EbenhackA.J. Green wants to play into his mid-30s.

Green agreed last fall to a four-year contract extension that would keep him in Bengals stripes through the 2019 season. The end of that deal would conclude his ninth season, and it would fall after his 31st birthday. Ideally, he'd like to see at least one more two-year deal to cap his own career.

"If I can't do it, I'm just going to walk away," Green said. "I'll be gone. Eleven will be fine if my body's not holding up. Eleven would be great. My goal is 12 to 15 [years total]. We'll see."

As he enters his sixth season, Green argues that he's among a quintet of NFL receivers who could be next in line to claim Johnson's unofficial "best receiver in the NFL" title.

"Julio [Jones], Antonio Brown, Odell [Beckham Jr.], [DeAndre] Hopkins," Green said. "That's five."

But of that list, who's the best?

"I'll let you all debate that one," Green said to reporters, smiling.

LATROBE, Pa. -- The Pittsburgh Steelers didn't have to worry about second-year outside linebacker Bud Dupree failing any conditioning tests at training camp this week.

He looked imposing when addressing the media Thursday.

Turns out Dupree put in some serious work this offseason, dropping his weight from 270-plus pounds to around 254.

Bud DupreeJeremy Fowler/ESPN.comLinebacker Bud Dupree said cutting down on carbs helped him trim down from 270-plus pounds to around 254 as he reported for Steelers training camp.

"No carbs," Dupree smiled.

He also relied on boxing training with noted pass-rush trainer Chuck Smith to stay fit. After the season, Dupree realized his previous weight might have held him back. Dupree failed to record a sack in the final eight games of 2015. At the time, Dupree acknowledged hitting a rookie mental wall. But weight management was also a factor.

It's early in 2016, but so far Dupree is feeling light-years better than his rookie season.

"Conditioning-wise, and playbook-wise," Dupree said.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin isn't surprised by the weight loss, acknowledging reserve pass-rusher Anthony Chickillo also dropped weight. For Dupree, though, the benefit comes in quickness. Dupree was fast even before shedding those pounds, recording a sub-4.6-second 40 during draft season at 260-plus.

"My No. 1 thing is speed," Dupree said. "I have to make sure people know that's my threat. I have to have counter moves [to complement speed]."

If Dupree becomes the force his frame suggests he can be, the Steelers could have their next great edge rusher. First, though, Dupree must prove he has the edge and the instincts to play the position every down.

BEREA, Ohio -- Isaiah Crowell has continued his efforts to make clear that his brief and controversial social media post does not reflect who he truly is.

On Thursday, his coach supported the Cleveland Browns running back.

"We don't feel like that's Crow's character," Hue Jackson said. "I truly believe that he will continue to work at making this right."

Crowell continues to try to make amends for his post, which he put online for less than one minute in the aftermath of police killings of two young black men, but before five police officers in Dallas were killed July 9.

Isaiah CrowellKen Blaze/USA TODAY SportsAs the Browns gather for camp, running back Isaiah Crowell continues to work to mend fences after the summer's social media storm.

Speaking directly, Crowell reiterated his apology.

"That’s not who I am," the 23-year-old said. "I’m just trying to get everybody to see that that’s not who I am. I made a mistake by posting the picture and I’m sorry for it.”

Crowell has promised his first game check to the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation. He apologized on his Facebook page. He attended the funeral of one of the police officers killed in Dallas.

He said he has talked about the possibility of a ride-along in a Cleveland police car, though nothing has yet been set up.

Loomis and Demetrick Pennie, head of the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation, both said they accepted Crowell's apology. Crowell and Pennie talked at length the night before and day of the funeral Crowell attended.

Browns vice president Sashi Brown said Crowell called him and Jackson on his own to say he was wrong and that he took the post down quickly. His goal going forward is to try to generate "an open dialogue between the community and the police," a significant step for a player who normally is reserved in public situations.

"I want to be a part of the solution and not the problem," Crowell said. "Posting that picture, I was part of the problem, and I don’t want to be that.”

Crowell said he has received significant backlash. Jackson said he understood that some might never forgive Crowell.

"And rightfully so," Jackson said.

Brown said the Browns organization felt "great disappointment" about the post, and said the team would not "skip past that." But he added that Crowell has at least initially taken proper steps.

Crowell said he understands any and all negative feelings.

"I understand it because I made the mistake by posting the picture," he said. "It’s my fault, so I man up and say, ‘I apologize to everyone and I’m sorry to all my fans and the whole Browns organization.’ I’ll do my best at trying to show people that’s not who I am.”

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- The Baltimore Ravens' players gathered Wednesday for their first team meeting, where coach John Harbaugh set the tone for training camp and the regular season.

Harbaugh's message was it's time to go all-in.

AP Photo/Gail BurtonJohn Harbaugh, right, shared a smile with Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith on Thursday, but he also sent a message about what he expects from his team.

"Coach had a great point [Wednesday] night: You’re either with us or you’re not, and if you’re not, get out of the way," safety Eric Weddle said. "It’s true. You have to be committed. I think everyone here is, and it’s just exciting. It's exciting to see the commitment, the energy and the thoughts of what you want to get out of this season, and that’s winning a lot of games.”

A year after nearly knocking off eventual Super Bowl champion New England in the playoffs, the Ravens plummeted to 5-11 in 2015. It was the Ravens' worst record under Harbaugh and their worst in eight years.

A quick turnaround wouldn't be unprecedented. In the past five seasons, eight NFL teams have gone to the playoffs after winning five or fewer games the previous season, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. That includes last season's Washington Redskins, who went from 4-12 in 2014 to NFC East champions at 9-7 one year later.

In order to do that, the Ravens need players to step up more in critical situations and be stronger late in games.

"We were all-in last year in so many ways," Harbaugh said. "I know that it reflected in the way that we handled the adversity and it built a foundation for this season. There are degrees of things like that. Are you going to be great at what you do, or are you going to be OK at what you do?"

The Ravens didn't chalk up last season to bad luck or numerous injuries. Baltimore spent $132.5 million in guaranteed money since the Super Bowl, which ranks as the fourth-most in the NFL.

Free agents such as Weddle, wide receiver Mike Wallace and tight end Benjamin Watson bring experience. Top draft picks such as offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and linebacker Kamalei Correa are expected to be immediate starters.

But there still is uncertainty as the Ravens start training camp. Who are going to be Baltimore's playmakers? Will the Ravens' injured players (Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., Elvis Dumervil and Breshad Perriman) return in time for the regular season and remain healthy? Can the Ravens force more turnovers and commit fewer? And how will Joe Flacco perform coming off a season-ending knee injury?

"There are always a lot of questions going in. I think you have a pretty good idea of what the answers to them are, but you just have to see for yourself and see how the preseason games go," Flacco said. "I think we’ve got a very talented group, and I think we’ve got a good core group of guys. The other guys are just going to have to do their job and play consistently. [They will] just have to show up every day and get better, and I think we will be good.”

Baltimore set an NFL record when it won a playoff game in each of Harbaugh's first five seasons as head coach. The team embraced the mantra of "Play Like A Raven" as its gold standard.

But the team has failed to reach the postseason in two of the past three seasons. Last season was only the fifth time in the franchise's 20-year existence that the Ravens recorded double-digit losses.

"For us to not have the success that we expected, it just didn’t feel good," Suggs said. "Now we get a chance to make it right. Last year is gone, but we have to beat that team, so to say. We have to make sure that team doesn’t show up on Sept. 11 again. We work too hard, our fans deserve better, and we deserve better. We work our tails off. It takes a lot to be considered a Raven. We just have to get back to that.”

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- There's a chance that Eric Weddle's signature beard might not last the season.

Weddle shaved for the first time in three years after last season to signify a fresh start -- and clean break -- from the San Diego Chargers. But he quickly regretted the decision and has started growing back the beard.

Jamison Hensley/ESPN.comEric Weddle, who shaved his signature beard after leaving the Chargers, said it is coming in fuller than ever.

Now, the fate of Weddle's facial hair could be left up to the Baltimore Ravens' success.

"I might be sporadic and just cut it or I might let it grow," Weddle said Thursday. "If we're winning, it's going to be there and be full."

Weddle began growing out the beard at the start of the 2013 season in honor of his father, Steven Weddle, who had a similar beard in his younger years. He had pledged to keep it until the Chargers reached the Super Bowl. That all changed after his acrimonious split with the team.

In growing back the beard, Weddle has noticed a difference with his gnarly whiskers.

"It's a lot more full this time around, which is nice," Weddle said. "It's coming in even. We'll see where it goes."

Aaron Doster/USA TODAY SportsThe pain of last season's playoff loss is still there for Adam Jones and his teammates, but they're trying to move forward.

CINCINNATI -- Adam Jones had a busy offseason.

In between his regular weightlifting and workout sessions (his Instagram account is full of videos), multiple family trips, numerous golf outings, his first-ever Pro Bowl appearance, his first free youth camp for kids in Cincinnati, and agreeing to a $22 million contract extension, the Cincinnati Bengals cornerback was constantly active.

When he had a little down time, though, he was doing something else -- watching and rewatching the last game he played in -- from start to finish.

"I done watched that game about 10 times," Jones said.

Yes, you'll recall that Jones helped author an end-of-game collapse that contributed greatly to the Bengals' losing their wild-card playoff game to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Just after the two-minute warning, a Bengals go-ahead touchdown and a Vontaze Burfict interception appeared to ice Cincinnati's first playoff win in 25 years.

But a subsequent fumble from Bengals running back Jeremy Hill with 1:23 remaining gave Pittsburgh one last chance to win. After driving from their own 9, the Steelers made it all the way into the red zone, thanks in large part to separate 15-yard penalties that Jones and Burfict received thanks to one widely-discussed play.

Burfict's came first. He was charged with unnecessary roughness after hitting Steelers receiver Antonio Brown in the head following a pass that was overthrown. That infraction, as well as several previous ones, led to Burfict's three-game suspension to start this season.

While Brown was being tended to by trainers, Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter ended up in the middle of the field. Several Bengals, but most notably Jones, took exception to his presence. By rule, assistants are required to remain on the sidelines during the game. As he angrily started going after Porter, Jones made contact with an official, earning his personal foul penalty. Following the combined 30 yards worth of penalties, the Steelers went on to make a 35-yard, game-winning field goal.

"We kicked they ass the whole game; that's all I can say," Jones said Thursday. "And it hurt me to my heart that we let it go like that.

"[But] it's over with. It's in the past."

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis told reporters something similar Tuesday, saying it was time to move on. His team can't "wallow" in last year, he said, pointing out that even the Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos are trying to tune out 2015.

Can it be as simple as flipping on a switch and ignoring any reference to the playoff game, though? Surely the sight of the Steelers celebrating a win the Bengals felt they should have had will gnaw at them. It will have to be on their minds going into the Week 2 showdown at Pittsburgh, right?

"We're going to be motivated anyway because we want to get out of the first round," Jones said. "So whoever it'll be, when we get there, hopefully we can take out all our frustration and anger on the field, and keep it on the field and win the game.

"We'll see."

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wowed the 1,250 fans at the Under Armour Performance Center on Thursday when he threw a 60-yard strike to rookie Chris Moore.

It's a big, downfield pass that he's thrown so many times in his nine-year career. It's just not a throw that everyone has seen for a long time.

In his first full-team practice in 251 days, Flacco alleviated some concerns by showing off his strong arm and more elusiveness than anticipated. It seemed like the only one not totally satisfied by Flacco's performance was Flacco himself.

"It felt really good to be back out there," Flacco said. "I wasn't as efficient as I would like to be, but I felt comfortable. Just need to throw it a little better and complete some more passes."

Flacco showed some rust, but he was sharper than the other Ravens quarterbacks. He didn't look like a quarterback who missed the entire offseason and hadn't stepped on the field with the full team since late November. Flacco also didn't miss any of his reps during a 2-hour practice when the heat index reached 98 degrees.

Joe FlaccoGail Burton/AP PhotoJoe Flacco throws a pass during practice Thursday in his first full-team practice in 251 days, since a knee injury ended his 2015 season.

There were times when Flacco felt some pressure and moved out of the pocket. He never attempted to run, but it wasn't like he was a statue, either.

The only reminder that Flacco is coming off a season-ending knee injury was his bright red jersey and the protective brace on his left knee.

"He made some great throws today, [and the] one to [tight end Dennis] Pitta across the middle was just a great throw," safety Eric Weddle said. "Only great quarterbacks can make that throw. He looked good; he seemed confident. You couldn't tell he had surgery in the offseason. It's definitely a positive sign."

The next step for Flacco is to take hits. The Ravens' preseason opener is Aug. 11 against the Carolina Panthers, but Flacco's progress will determine whether he plays the first series. The team could decide to hold him out until the third preseason game.

"I missed a handful of games, and it didn't feel good," Flacco said. "But there are a lot of good things that come out of it. You just have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and go to work, go to work, go to work, and work toward that goal of getting back out onto the field."

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LATROBE, Pa. -- Ever the showman, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown is expected to drive a Rolls-Royce to training camp at Saint Vincent College for the second straight year, according to the car manufacturer.

Not just any Rolls, but a Rolls-Royce Wraith with a space-inspired paint job, emblazoned with Steelers colors and "AB 84" on the doors. Brown did this last year with a custom Phantom as part of a Rolls promotion showcasing the star receiver.

Less holdout, more hop-out.

Brown brings luxury playmaking to the Steelers, but after the recent issues with Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, who are both facing suspensions, the team needs Brown to be something more -- part Rolls, part fighter jet, part cyborg.

As if Brown doesn't already do enough, the Steelers might ask him to catch 150 passes in 2016. This is not hyperbole. He's never been more important to the Steelers’ offense than he is right now, which makes his full participation in camp a blessing for the team.

Antonio Brown Rolls RoyceCourtesy of Rolls RoyceAntonio Brown's training-camp ride features a space-inspired paint job, emblazoned with Steelers colors and "AB 84" on the door.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this week that Brown will report to camp and is confident he'll eventually get a new contract. Brown, who enters the fifth year of a six-year, $43 million deal, knows he's underpaid, but he told ESPN in May that he was excited about participating in all team workouts before the 2016 season and that his contract would sort itself out eventually.

Brown and Ben Roethlisberger are the two constants that keep the Steelers’ offense treading water through the chaos. With Bell facing a four-game suspension and Bryant suspended for the season, the Steelers are looking to the Big Ben-Brown combo to ease the pain a bit.

After an NFL-record 264 catches in two seasons, Brown could have used Bell's possible suspension as leverage by holding out. It's wise that he didn't.

Worst case, Brown plays out this season at $6.25 million and gets a huge deal before his 29th birthday on July 10, 2017. My guess for 2016, though: The Steelers advance at least $2 million of his 2017 salary into this year, a restructuring tactic that got Brown over $8 million in 2015.

Of course, the Steelers have a longstanding policy not to negotiate with a player until he enters the final year of his current contract. If there were ever a non-quarterback for whom they'd break the rule, it's Brown, who will no doubt test their commitment to that policy. After settling on the extra $2 million last year, Brown's camp set its sights on flexibility in 2016. The Steelers, however, will want to cling to their tradition because of the precedent it sets.

Perhaps the sides can find middle ground this year and then break the bank in 2017 while letting Brown settle into a Larry Fitzgerald-like transition into his 30s.

As for what will happen on the field, don't be surprised if Brown surpasses 200 targets. He hit 195 last year despite Roethlisberger missing four games. Bell is an elite receiver, so his absence makes Brown an all-the-more-tempting presence downfield.

With Roethlisberger and Brown, the Steelers have a chance in every game.

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- One of the biggest questions that the Baltimore Ravens will have to answer during this year's training camp is at running back.

The Ravens have perhaps more depth at running back than ever before, and it's legitimate to wonder whether Baltimore will split up the carries this year.

Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY SportsBefore breaking his arm in Week 11, Justin Forsett ran the ball 386 times, accounting for 55 percent of Baltimore's carries.

So, would Justin Forsett accept a running back-by-committee approach?

"What's that?" Forsett said with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

When the reporter explained what running back by committee means, Forsett continued to plead ignorance by saying, "What is running back by committee? I don't really know what that is."

After the reporter once again attempted to explain, Forsett laughed and said, "Yeah, I don't understand that!"

Forsett's playful give-and-take comes with a serious message. He isn't ready to give up his role as the featured runner in Baltimore's offense.

After being a reserve for the first five years of his NFL career, Forsett has led the Ravens in rushing the past two seasons. Before breaking his arm in Week 11, Forsett ran the ball 386 times, the eighth-most attempts over that span. This accounted for 55 percent of Baltimore's carries.

But the number of touches could be more evenly distributed this year. Buck Allen, Terrance West, Kenneth Dixon and Lorenzo Taliaferro will push Forsett for his starting job and opportunities. Allen and West, in particular, have had strong offseasons.

"I grew up on old-school running backs," Forsett said. "I love watching them play -- Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, all those guys. Of course, if you are a running back -- everybody wants to be on the field all the time. I want to put myself in a position where they can’t take me off the field. That is my mentality. At the end of the day, everybody has their role, and I’ll let Coach decide that.”

Forsett, 30, also serves as the mentor to this group. None of the other healthy running backs are older than 25.

Is it difficult for Forsett to help out the younger running backs when they're competing for his job?

“I feel like me being here is greater than football," Forsett said. "Anytime I can help and serve my teammates, allow them to be better, I’m all for it. When I got into the league, it was guys like T.J. Duckett, Maurice Morris and Julius Jones that helped me along the way -- Edgerrin James -- those guys helped me be a pro and showed me the way. It is my duty to pass that on.”

CINCINNATI -- Sometime Thursday when Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis meets with his entire team as it reports for training camp, he and his staff will touch on the events that have dominated so many of the headlines around the country these past two months.

Baton Rouge, Orlando, Minnesota, Dallas -- each place has been the unwitting setting in a series of tragedies that have had the world talking.

Marvin Lewis AP Photo/John Minchillo"We're a football team. And we have to come together as a football team, and that's going to be very important for us," Marvin Lewis said of the Bengals.

Even the sports world -- one where modern-day professional athletes tend to keep outward comments geared toward the individual games they play -- has recently become a more socially active space. At the ESPYS earlier this month, four NBA superstars made an emotional plea for other athletes to stand up and promote social change. Teams in the WNBA have heeded the call, staging media blackouts after recent games. In postgame interviews, they rejected discussing the games and instead wanted to highlight concerns revolving around social issues and current events.

At his youth camp a couple weeks ago, Bengals receiver A.J. Green said it was important for athletes to start using their platforms to show kids like his soon-to-be-born son, Easton Ace Green, that they can one day change the world for the better.

But if Lewis has his way, that's probably the last time you'll hear from Green, or any Bengals player for that matter, as it pertains to the issue of social activism.

"We're a football team. And we have to come together as a football team, and that's going to be very important for us," Lewis said at the Bengals' pre-training camp media luncheon earlier this week. "We're going to talk quite a bit about where we are as a country, and as a society and so forth. We have to understand that. That's a key element of what football is, what makes it so special -- a football team -- that it's not about color. It's about how we are.

"We're a family, and we have to always be conscious of that in everything we do -- whether it's how I dress, how I come to work -- all of the standards that we have. And that's why we move away from social media now, and now it's time to focus on football. It's not time to ... if you want to tweet, go somewhere else. It's now time to do football. And that's not helping us win football games. And so now we have to focus on what helps us win football games."

On the same day Lewis answered a question regarding his stance on his own players' social activism, outspoken Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman told The Undefeated he felt the NFL should be more active when it comes to issues of violence and race in this country, "but I don't think they will because it doesn't affect their bottom line. It doesn't affect them, and a lot of the owners haven't come from a background where they would have to deal with these types of circumstances. So it's just news to them."

Sherman went on to say he felt that as players in a majority African-American league, he would imagine other players would be compelled to speak up.

For now, though, with their coach focused on winning his franchise's first playoff game in more than 25 years, it doesn't appear any Bengals will be joining Sherman.

There have been 13 players at the age of 30 or younger who have retired this offseason, including former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.

Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who turned 31 earlier this year, has noticed the trend of young players walking away from fame and fortune. It's a growing list that features big names such as Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch and Jerod Mayo.

But Flacco said he isn't worried about how the game of football will affect him later in life.

“I’ll worry about running around with my kids when I’m 50, when I’m 50," said Flacco, who has three sons under the age of 4. "I don’t have to worry about it right now. The main reason I’m going to be able to enjoy running around with my kids is because of what I do."

Flacco isn't close to calling it quits and wants to play into his 40s. In March, he signed a three-year, $66.4 million extension that included a $40 million signing and will keep him under contract through the 2021 season.

There are 11 starting quarterbacks in the NFL who are older than Flacco and there are five who are 35 or older: Tom Brady (38), Drew Brees (37), Carson Palmer (36), Josh McCown (37) and Tony Romo (35).

Flacco has been extremely durable in his eight NFL seasons. His season-ending knee surgery last November was the first significant injury of his career.

"If at some point this game takes that away from me, then so be it," Flacco said. "I don’t anticipate that happening, and I’ll do everything in my power to keep that from happening. But my kids will eventually understand. I’ll get somebody to run around with them.”video

Terrell SuggsJamison Hensley/ESPNTerrell Suggs broke out some "Game of Thrones" gear to kick off training camp on Wednesday.


OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs has been acting recently on the television show "Ballers." But Suggs was supporting another HBO series when he spoke to the media on Wednesday.

Suggs wore a "Game of Thrones" t-shirt, one that combines the popular fantasy drama with a Donald Trump saying. There is no word on whether Suggs plans to show up in Westeros as well.

"Game of Thrones" has been a recurring theme for the Ravens this offseason. Upon hearing rumors on social media that Joe Flacco had died, Flacco's official Twitter account slyly posted a video of the character Jon Snow being resurrected.

As far as "Ballers" is concerned, Suggs wasn't interested in talking about his cameo appearance that aired this month. In the episode, Suggs gets into a fight with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson even though he's still recovering from an Achilles injury.

Asked if he used a stunt double for that fight scene, Suggs said, "I plead the fifth. I'm not going to tell anybody."

Paul GuentherGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images"We have to be better closers," Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said.

CINCINNATI -- He had the NFL's No. 2 scoring defense in 2015, and led a unit that very nearly carried an Andy Dalton-less Cincinnati Bengals team to the franchise's first playoff victory in 25 years.

So what -- other than more disciplined play from two of his best players -- is defensive coordinator Paul Guenther looking for from his defenders this season?

He wants each to channel their inner Aroldis Chapman, and do a better job of closing out games.

"We only lost five games," Guenther began, "but we lost on a one-minute drive at Arizona. Obviously the playoff game. To a certain extent, the Denver game. Those nut-cutting times at the end of games, we have to understand and practice those situations and talk through them. And I constantly talk through situational football with the guys, because it may not be a first-and-10 at eight minutes left in the first quarter that wins you a game. It may be that first-and-10 with two minutes left."

Of the five games the Bengals lost last year (that total includes January's playoff defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers), four were decided by a combined 12 points. The other, a 33-20 Week 14 loss to Pittsburgh, was practically handed to the Steelers in the first quarter when Dalton left with what proved to be a season-ending broken thumb injury.

Here's how the Bengals lost those four other games:

  • In the 10-6 Week 10 loss to Houston, they weren't able to respond to T.J. Yates' 22-yard touchdown pass to DeAndre Hopkins with 14:20 left.
  • A week later, the Bengals fell at Arizona, 34-31, following a final-minute Cardinals comeback drive. On a pivotal third down with six seconds remaining, Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko was controversially flagged for allegedly yelling out Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer's cadence. Peko claimed he was simply telling his teammates to "Get set, get set," prompting Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis to later quip the penalty was a "phantom call." The 15-yard infraction gave Arizona a first down and moved the Cardinals into the red zone for a game-winning, 32-yard field goal seconds later.
  • The Week 16 game at Denver was lost when backup quarterback AJ McCarron mishandled an overtime shotgun snap, fumbling the ball into the hands of Broncos defenders in the walk-off defeat. To Guenther's broader point, the Bengals didn't close out the first half as cleanly as they would have liked defensively. They allowed a 23-yard field goal with 14 seconds remaining. The score came at the end of a 60-yard drive that began just before the two-minute warning.
  • In the playoffs, the Bengals' fifth-straight early exit came when, while trying to run out the clock with a lead in the final two minutes, running back Jeremy Hill fumbled to give the Steelers one last possession. Across nearly all of the final 1:23, Pittsburgh drove from its own 9 and into the Bengals' red zone, thanks in large part to successive personal foul penalties from Vontaze Burfict and Adam Jones. A 35-yard field goal in the closing seconds gave Pittsburgh the come-from-behind victory.

After that litany of end-of-game and end-of-half problems, it would appear Guenther was onto something.

"That's when the best players have to come up and be ready to play," Guenther said. "We have to be better closers."

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Wide receiver Mike Wallace isn't expected to suit up for his first training camp practice with the Baltimore Ravens on Thursday after he failed the team's conditioning test.

Wallace, a free-agent signing from the Minnesota Vikings, likely will be placed on the non-football injury list until he passes the test. He narrowly failed the test Wednesday and is expected to be on the field over the next couple of days after he passes it.

This isn't a major concern for the Ravens. Other players such as defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, defensive back Lardarius Webb and wide receiver Jacoby Jones have failed the conditioning test in the past.

Wallace, 29, signed a two-year, $11.5 million deal with Baltimore in March. He is coming off a season in which he had career lows in 473 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

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