And just like that, one shoe has dropped on the Biogenesis fallout. Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Bucks is the first player to be suspended and the news has rocked the sports world. The Stack is here to talk about it and other news plus a couple more training camp previews so let's get right to i t and see what made "the stack" for today, Tuesday, July 23:
Ryan Braun suspended for rest of the year
Baseball wasn't kidding when they said that they had dirt on the players linked to the Biogenesis scandal. The Milwaukee Brewers found that out the hard way Monday when news broke that MLB suspended left fielder Ryan Braun for the remainder of the season without pay. That's 65 games! Braun's suspension shouldn't come as a shock to any baseball fans. He avoided being suspended last year on a technicality that went before an arbitration hearing. Brewers fans welcomed him back with open arms and said that it was a witchcraft hunt. That included Green Bay Packers quarterback and Braun's friend Aaron Rodgers. They can't defend Braun now or say that what baseball did is wrong. Braun himself admitted quote, "I realize now that I have made some mistakes. I am willing to accept the consequences of those actions..."
Conspiracy theorists were out in full force Sunday when New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez was diagnosed with a quad injury a day before he was supposed to return to the team. They said that the Yankees knew that something was pending with the league, that perhaps Rodriguez would be suspended and they didn't want him around the team to be a distraction. That was quickly dismissed by many baseball writers. That may change if it hasn't already. Braun is most likely the first domino to fall and there no doubt will be others. Braun was the second biggest target of baseball in this investigation only behind Rodriguez in my opinion. Some may think that Braun was at the very center of all of this as he dodged suspension last year and the league wanted to get him back. However you want to look at it, Braun is gone for the rest of the year, his reputation forever tarnished. It's not like the Brewers were doing all that good with him this year anyway. They're dead last in the NL Central. But this will definitely hurt the team at the front gate. Braun is the face of the Brewers franchise. His suspension is a huge blow to the team.
Baseball has said for weeks that they had enough evidence to nail players with suspensions. Braun is only the first. Who will be next?
Von Miller suspended four games
Ryan Braun wasn't the only big name player to be suspended Monday. Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller is staring a four game suspension in the face for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. The Denver Post is reporting that Miller tested positive for amphetamines and steroids in 2011. That raises a few questions. Why did it take this long for Miller to be suspended? Why wasn't he suspended that year or early last year? Miller for the record denies that he did anything wrong. Of course you expect a player to say that, but this whole situation does raise a few eyebrows. More will come out and it will be interesting to see if the suspension sticks or if it is reduced by a couple of games. Miller is one of the best defensive players in the game. Losing him would hurt the Broncos. He's a sack artist, with 30 in the past two years, fourth in the NFL. However the Broncos are stacked. With Peyton Manning and a slew of other weapons, the Broncos should be able to hold serve and survive the suspension. Then again, given the issues they've had in the front office, the Broncos can't afford any other distractions. The situation is bound to unfold more.
Atlanta Falcons training camp preview
The Falcons open up training camp in Flowery Branch, GA, Wednesday, July 24, and this is a team loaded with expectations. The Falcons were a couple of plays away from going to the Super Bowl last year. Their offense is stacked, but questions remain about the defense and their ability to perform in the big game. Here are a few traning camp storylines:
- Is the secondary going to hold up? Gone is Brent Grimes (Miami) and Dunta Robinson (Kansas City). Given that they are in a division with the likes of Drew Brees and an up and rising Cam Newton, the Falcons need their young secondary to exceed expectations. That includes rookie first round pick Desmond Trufant. The success of the secondary will be the key to the Falcons making it back to the NFC Championship game and perhaps the Super Bowl.
- What about the defensive line? John Abraham is gone. The Falcons brought in Osi Umenyora from the Giants in hopes that he regains the form he showed in the Giants' Super Bowl runs. He can become the leader of the defense, but he needs to do it with his play on the field as well. Linebacker Will Weatherspoon has played well thus far. He needs to take his game up another notch for the Falcons defense to be successful.
- Is Steven Jackson a suitable replacement at running back? Michael Turner just didn't have it anymore for the Falcons so they got him out of town and brought in Jackson who was the Rams workhorse for many years. Jackson still has a few good years left in him and he can be a weapon both running and catching. It's just another weapon for Matty Ice and it makes the Falcons a much more balanced team on offense. Will be interesting to see how he looks at the start of camp.
The Falcons schedule can be found here. Here are a few interesting facts about their schedule:
- The Falcons are made for primetime. They have five nationally televised games this year (Week 4 vs. New England 8:30 PM ET NBC, Week 5 vs. NY Jets 8:40 PM ET ESPN, Week 12 vs. New Orleans 8:25 PM ET NFL Network (Thursday), Week 14 @ Green Bay 8:30 PM ET NBC and Week 16 @ San Francisco 8:40 PM ET ESPN).
- The Falcons play three straight AFC East teams weeks 3-5 (@ Miami, VS New England, VS NY Jets).
- Late October through early December is going to show us a lot about the Falcons. During that stretch, the Falcons play five of seven games on the road.
The Falcons look to fly high again this year and get to the Super Bowl. No doubt they have the offense to do it. They will be a fun team to watch this year.
Baltimore Ravens training camp preview
The Ravens were pretty successful last year, having a marvelous postseason run in route to their second Super Bowl title. The team looks a lot different this year, but the Ravens are ready for the challenge of defending the crown. Here is a look at some training camp storylines from Ravens camp in Owings Mills, MD:
- Who's going to be the new leader of the team? Ray Lewis retired. He now works for ESPN. He was the face of the franchise. He was the undisputed leader on the team. His passion was second to none. Who will take his spot. The answer is no one. Quarterback Joe Flacco is the leader of the Ravens, but he is no Lewis. If the Ravens go through a tough stretch this year, how will Flacco rally the team? Lewis could do it. Not sure if Flacco can. He's got a chance to show that in training camp.
- Will the defense regain its form? Probably not. This is going to be a vastly different looking defense. Paul Kruger went to Cleveland. Lewis retired. Darnell Ellerbe is in Miami. Terrell Suggs is the leader of the defense now, but this isn't the Ravens defense of yester year. We didn't see it last year, but this year expectations are even lower. The Ravens must use training camp to form a new defensive identity.
- How will the team handle being Super Bowl champs? It's easier being the hunter than the hunted. The 31 other NFL teams are all gunning for what Baltimore has. Head coach John Harbaugh knows that and he will do his best to prepare that, but it's different heading into training camp as the defending Super Bowl champions. Their attitude will go a long ways in determining whether or not they have a realistitc shot of repeating. It all starts in camp.
The Ravens full schedule can be found here. Here are a few interesting facts regarding their schedule...
- The Ravens have four primetime games this year (Week 1 @ Denver (Thursday night, opening night) 8:30 PM ET NBC, Week 13 VS Pittsburgh (Thanksgiving night) 8:30 PM ET NBC, Week 15 @ Detroit 8:40 PM ET ESPN and Week 16 VS New England 8:30 PM ET NBC).
- The opener at Denver will be the first time in over a decade that the defending Super Bowl champion opens on the road. The Ravens have to due to a scheduling conflict with baseball's Baltimore Orioles and the league's could not compromise on a deal where it would work out.
- Baltimore ends the season at Cincinnati for the second straight year.
Not sure many people believe in the Ravens heading into this year, but then again, not too many people thought the Ravens would go into Denver in the playoffs and win either. Look what happened. Going to be a fun year for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Cincinnati Bengals training camp preview
The Bengals have made the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time in a really long time. Sure they've lost to the Houston Texans in the wild card round both years, but that's progress and Bengals fans will take that. This year though, there are far bigger expectations placed on the Bengals. Will they be able to handle it? We're about to find out when the Bengals open up training camp tomorrow, Wednesday, July 24, at Paul Brown Stadium. Here are a couple of storylines to watch:
- Who will be the starting running back? Few rookies have been talked about with as much excitement as Bengals running back Giovani Bernard from North Carolina. The entire coaching staff is giddy trying to figure out ways to get him the ball. He's impressed them that much during offseason workouts. The lawfirm BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the starting running back for now and may continue to be the starting running back for the first part of the season, but if Bernard impresses even more in training camp, he may get the starting gig sooner than later.
- Will the Bengals throw some wrinkles in the offensive playbook? Bernard wasn't the only offensive draft pick that the Bengals should be excited about. First round pick tight end Tyler Eifert gives the Bengals a big weapon that can help transform the offense and help quarterback Andy Dalton take that next step. Perhaps that should be the question. Will Dalton take that next step? We're seeing more and more teams employ two top tier tight ends and make their offense more difficult to defend. With Eifert and starter Jermaine Gresham, the Bengals now can throw a different look that defenses are going to have to figure out how to stop.
- Can the Bengals live up to expectations? For the first time in a long time, some people are picking the Bengals to win the AFC North. They look at the Bengals as close to an elite team with the pieces in place on both sides of the ball that can make the Bengals a threat and on the verge of a deep playoff run. That's a lot of pressure to place on a fairly young team. The Bengals haven't won anything yet? But how they handle the expectations and that pressure will tell us a lot and it all starts when they begin their first practice tomorrow.
The Bengals full schedule can be found here. Here are a few interesting facts about the Bengals schedule:
- The Bengals are starting to become a big primetime player as they have three nationally televised games this year (Week 2 VS Pittsburgh 8:40 PM ET ESPN, Week 9 @ Miami 8:25 PM ET NFL Network (Thursday night) and week 15 @ Pittsburgh 8:30 PM ET NBC).
- The Bengals have the latest bye possible in the NFL this year, week 12. This could be good or bad depending on how their season goes.
- Five home games are against playoff teams (Green Bay, New England, Baltimore (twice) and Minnesota).
Expectations are high in Cincinnati this year. Going to be exciting to see how the Bengals handle that and whether or not they can make the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
Cleveland Browns training camp preview
Another new coaching staff and front office. Browns fans are used to this. Maybe though this is the group to help get the Browns towards being competitive consistently and fight for a playoff spot. Yes the Browns have been in the spotlight all offseason because of owner Jimmy Haslam's situation with his company Pilot J, but they are looking forward to training camp tomorrow, Wednesday, July 24 at their training facility in Barea, Ohio. Here are a couple of storylines:
- Will Brandon Weeden remain the starting quarterback? The front office and coaching staff aren't exactly behind Weeden either not believing he is the long term solution for the Browns or just simply wanting to bring in their own guy. Weeden is a Mike Holmgren pick. He wasn't great his rookie season, but it seems reasonable to say that he'll improve greatly in his second season. The Browns have a few more weapons now on offense and head coach Rob Chudzinski is an offensive guru. But will Weeden be leap frogged on the depth chart by Jason Campbell? Possibly, though that seems more likely in the regular season if the Browns struggle once again. Still, if Weeden doesn't overly impress in training camp and Campbell does, you wonder how long Weeden will remain the starting quarterback.
- Can the defense carry the team? The Browns made a splash in free agency signing linebacker Paul Kruger away from the Super Bowl champion Ravens. They drafted defensive end Barkevious Mingo from LSU in the first round. They have other pieces in place. This could be a very good defense, but they need to show that consistency. And that won't happen if the offense doesn't have the ball longer. Watching them build chemistry in training camp is definitely something to keep an eye on.
- No Phil Dawson? For the first time since they returned to Cleveland, the Browns will have a new kicker this season. Dawson is in San Francisco. Shayne Graham is the new kicker. Graham is a good kicker, but Dawson was a staple of the Browns organization. Going to be weird to see someone else kicking and given the conditions that he'll be playing in in Cleveland, have to wonder how he'll handle it.
The Browns full schedule can be found here. Here are a few interesting facts on their schedule:
- One nationally televised game for the Brown this year. Not shocking considering they weren't good last year. That game happens week 5 VS Buffalo 8:25 PM ET NFL Network (Thursday night). ZZZZZZ
- The Browns don't play the Steelers until week 12 and once again end the season at Pittsburgh.
- The Browns have a stretch where they have three straight home games weeks 4-6 (Cincinnati, Buffalo and Detroit).
Coming up Wednesday: NFL training camp previews plus other big stories from the world of sports.