Here are a couple of whispers we've been hearing in AFC North circles:
• Browns RB Peyton Hillis, who has made the most of an expanded role due to a season-ending knee injury suffered by Montario Hardesty, is definitely in the good graces of head coach Eric Mangini. The day after Hillis racked up a combined 180 rushing-receiving yards at Baltimore, Mangini said the performance was "not a fluke" and noted, "I was excited when we got him and I hope everybody sees why." As Hillis thrived in the first three weeks, RB Jerome Harrison, thought to be the most likely lead back with Hardesty out, has not played well, coughing up three fumbles (two lost) in five games, including preseason. Harrison, who was inactive last week with a thigh injury, wondered openly about his role in the offense entering Week Four. Of Harrison's role, Mangini replied: "His role is to go in and to carry the ball when he's asked to carry the ball and do it effectively, and protect the football. I'd say with any player that has any questions, my office hasn't changed; it's right there. I'm here every day; I can clarify things quickly." The mystery about where Harrison stands with the team is similar to last season, when his workload diminished after a 29-carry effort vs. Cincinnati, only to suddenly grow at season's end.
• The Ravens intended to re-sign DL Trevor Pryce before Week Five after releasing him this week to make room for S Ken Hamlin, who was brought back after having been released before Week Three. However, their plans were foiled when the Jets, coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, signed Pryce. The Ravens re-signed Hamlin to bolster their safety depth after carrying only three the previous week; he'll back up SS Dawan Landry. The Ravens have nine defensive linemen on the roster after Pryce's departure, including a pair of backups (Edgar Jones and Paul Kruger) listed at both outside linebacker and defensive end. One other note about the Ravens' D-line: Second-round pick NT Terrence Cody, who missed Week One with a knee injury and was inactive in Weeks Two and Three, figures to get his shot to play at some point, but it will be as a rotational player getting 20-25 snaps a game or so, according to a daily team observer.