AFC Notes: Browns, Ravens, Steelers, T.J. Watt


Browns DL Malik McDowell spoke about his multiple encounters with law enforcement since his 2017 ATV accident that resulted in a head injury. He said that he lost faith in himself and thought his playing career was over. 

“A lot of stuff drove me to what I had going on,” McDowell said, via Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal.The accident was the biggest part … That’s where I lost my faith, and I shouldn’t have ever lost my faith. Doctors telling me I’d never be able to play again, but I’ve got doctors saying another thing and go to a team and their doctor says the same thing, go to another team, doctor says the same thing. Just trying to push through that was a hard thing for me. I got down on myself a lot, just knowing I might not ever be able to play football again. But God blessed me and I’m back here.”

McDowell said his 11-months in jail gave him time to think about his life and use it as motivation to get back in the NFL. 

“[It] gave me a lot of time to think about what I wanted to do in life and where my life was heading. So that really gave me the motivation to push to try to fight back to get back what I lost,” McDowell said.

McDowell reiterated that he’s grateful for the “second chance” he gets in the NFL. 

“Everybody don’t get a second chance,” McDowell said. “That was just meaningful that the NFL and anybody is willing to give me of all people another chance. That’s just a blessing right there.”


  • ESPN’s Dan Graziano notes that all the missed time by Ravens QB Lamar Jackson and various members of his receiving corps have impacted the work Baltimore planned to do on its passing game during training camp. 
  • The Athletic’s Jeff Zrebiec gets the sense Ravens G Ben Powers will open the season as the starter at left guard ahead of third-round G Ben Cleveland, who has been hurt. 
  • In addition to fifth-round FB Ben Mason being a favorite of the Harbaugh family, the Ravens used their final draft pick on him as an insurance policy for FB Patrick Ricard as he recovered from hip surgery. Ultimately the team gambled and lost that they’d be able to bring him back to the practice squad at worst. (Zrebiec)
  • Zrebiec points out 67 of the 90 players the Ravens started camp with made a 53-man roster somewhere in the NFL. 
  • He also mentions Wayne Gallman and Royce Freeman as candidates for a practice squad spot to add depth at running back. 
  • Ravens OLB coach Drew Wilkins said OLB Jaylon Ferguson stands out for his run defense and has a role on the team for at least that: “The thing that you love about him that you can take to the bank: He’s going to set a dominant edge.”  (Jamison Hensley)


Steelers DC Keith Butler said last month that DE T.J. Watt wouldn’t practice until he gets a new contract. Butler admits that he “opened my mouth too much” on the matter and wouldn’t answer whether he’d practice ahead of Week 1. 

“That’s a good question,” Butler said, via ProFootballTalk. “Don’t know. That’s all I’ll say about it. Last time, I opened my mouth too much. So I’ll just keep it quiet this time.”

Butler added that he got into hot water with the organization when he spoke openly on Watt’s situation back in August. 

“It was the truth, but hey, sometimes the truth gets your butt in trouble in this league,” Butler said. “I’m gonna sit and keep my mouth shut this time.”

  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes he’s heard $28 million a year is the number Watt is looking for in his extension with Pittsburgh. He thinks there’s a strong chance they get a deal done in the next week or so. 

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