AROUND THE AFC
*After retiring to join NBC, New England safety Rodney Harrison earned high praise from coach Bill Belichick: “Rodney Harrison is one of the best players I have ever coached. … Rodney is the best practice player I have seen in 35 years in the NFL, which is a testament to his exceptional passion for the game and his desire to sustain and improve his level of play.”
*Cleveland left guard Eric Steinbach is on a dream offseason diet. He played last year at about 270 pounds, one of only a handful of NFL linemen under 300. New coach Eric Mangini told Steinbach to add 12 pounds, and he now weighs 285. “I think the more Eric hangs out with me, the better chance he has to bulk up — I’ve got it down,” Mangini said.
*Former Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is off to a tough start with Oakland. Heyward-Bey injured his right hamstring during a minicamp practice May 9, and soreness kept him off the field this week, costing him valuable practice time with quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Jeff Garcia.
*The agent for Tennessee quarterback Vince Young was in damage-control mode Wednesday. Young essentially told a Baltimore television station the Titans should play him or trade him. Major Adams said Young wants to remain with the team. “Even before they drafted him, they asked him if he thought he could compete for the starting role and he said yes,” Adams said. “He has always been a starter, and that’s his mindset.”
Players coming back from injuries
1. QB Tom Brady, New England — If he’s fully recovered from knee surgery, the Patriots’ offense will be the NFL’s best.
2. OLB Shawne Merriman, San Diego — The Chargers’ defense was 31st in the league without Merriman and posted only 28 sacks.
3. QB Carson Palmer, Cincinnati — Only two teams averaged fewer passing yards than the Palmer-less Bengals in 2008.
4. RB Felix Jones, Dallas — Before his season ended, the rookie was averaging 8.9 yards a carry.
5. DE Osi Umenyiora, NY Giants — In the four years before his knee injury, he averaged 10 sacks a season.