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Early Bird Report 2/16: Alex Mack reads much more than just NFL defenses


FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – Today's Early Bird Report includes Alex Mack's offseason passion as well as a decision on AJ McCarron's grievance against the Bengals.



ESPN: Mack enjoys being a well-rounded bookworm

To be a great center in the NFL, a player must read complex defensive fronts and schemes, identify them and communicate what he's seeing to the rest of the offensive line in a matter of seconds prior to the snap. Fresh off of his second straight Pro Bowl as a Falcon, Alex Mack has long been regarded as one of the best centers in football. So how does he keep his mind sharp during the offseason to read and diagnose NFL defenses? By doing a different type of reading, of course.

In a recent interview with ESPN’s Vaughn McClure, Mack explained that the offseason provides him a chance to catch up on one of his favorite hobbies. As McClure details, however, Mack doesn't just casually read magazines or random articles on the internet, he tackles thick novels that could seem daunting to any voracious reader.

"How many do I read? Depends on the size of the book," Mack told McClure. "Like, I read 'It' by Stephen King, and that's a massive, 800-page book. That took me pretty much all of training camp. But usually, I'll read two or three a month, give or take.

"Reading 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Harry Potter' isn't going to help you much on the football field. I would say it just helps me be a well-rounded person. It's not necessary if anything I read gives me an edge on the football field. I don't think it does. But it does help keep me relaxed and sane. It's something I'm really passionate about."

The average fan may not truly grasp how much mental work an offensive lineman does both pre- and post-snap, but they must be as sharp as any player on the field, especially a center. Mack's passion for reading books might seem surprising to some, but it's exactly in character for one of the smartest players in the NFL.

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*Cincinnati Enquirer: *AJ McCarron wins grievance, set to become free agent

The free agent market for quarterbacks just got a bit more interesting. According to the *Cincinnati Enquirer's *Jim Owczarski, AJ McCarron has won his grievance against the Cincinnati Bengals and is set to hit the open market when the new league year begins on March 14.

The grievance stemmed from the Bengals decision to place McCarron on the non-football injury list during his rookie year in 2014 due to their belief that he suffered a shoulder injury away from team activities. This caused him to miss enough time during his rookie season that it did not factor into the years a player must accrue before becoming an unrestricted free agent. As such, McCarron was set to become a restricted free agent when he believed that he should be unrestricted.

"We're going to be open to everything," McCarron told Owczarski of his upcoming free agency. "I'm not the one -- the people that know me and truly know me, and my family knows -- it's not about the money for me. I just love playing football. Making the money is great but I just want to play. that's what I grew up on. that's what you're raised on. Like here in the south, you're raised to love football. It's not about money. I just want to play. Whoever gives me an opportunity. I'm not going to chase the huge contract and be put in a situation that I might not be one hundred percent comfortable with just because it's a lot more money or whatever. I want to go somewhere where I can win and help the team win and we have a bright future together. I'm just super excited for this next chapter."

McCarron has spent the majority of his career as a backup to Andy Dalton with the Bengals, but he started four games in 2015, including a playoff game, after Dalton suffered a thumb injury late in the year. In those four games, McCarron threw for 1,066 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Here are some more articles from around the league:


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