Conversations between Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith and Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden rarely focus on press coverage and fly patterns.
Two of the top young players in the AFC North will square off again Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, but Smith and Haden's relationship isn't confined to the annual series between the division rivals.
Growing up in Virginia, Smith and Haden became childhood friends and remained close even as Haden attended high school in Maryland and went to college at Florida.
"Obviously, we're good friends off the field," Smith (Maryland) said Friday in the Ravens' locker room. "It's always fun to go against somebody you know, and he's one of the best corners in the league. I think that's a credit to him. Any time you get the opportunity to play against any talent, let alone someone you know, that's always fun."
Haden was serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL performance-enhancing drug policy last September when Smith caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown in a Ravens win.
During a November victory over the Browns with Haden back on the field, Smith finished with four receptions for 46 yards with one touchdown.
"We have a great relationship," Smith said. "Football-wise, he's one of the best in the business. So it's always fun to go against him."
Haden's grandfather is a pastor in Virginia who spoke at the funeral for Smith's younger brother, Tevin, after he died in a motorcycle accident last September. And Smith and Haden invited one another to their respective weddings this offseason.
Bragging rights about who did what to whom on the football field aren't something they focus on.
"When we're around each other, we don't even talk about it," Smith said. "It's all about whatever, whether him getting married or my wedding. His wedding was awesome. He was on his honeymoon, so he couldn't come to mine, but I talked to him beforehand. I was happy for him."
The Ravens are well aware of Haden's ball-hawking presence.
A speedy 2010 first-round draft pick, Haden has 181 career tackles, 48 pass deflections and nine interceptions in his career.
"Joe Haden, I think the world of him," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "People don't get open too often [against Haden]. I think they're building their secondary around Joe, and you can see why. It'll be a big challenge for us."
Bengals' Harrison not holding a grudge
The Pittsburgh Steelers lost an accomplished pass rusher and a major intimidator when they cut outside linebacker James Harrison last offseason after a contract dispute.
Harrison was due $6.57 million and refused an offer of a pay cut to $3.7 million.
After entering into preliminary talks with the Ravens, he was set to visit Baltimore just as the Ravens wrapped up a five-year, $35 million contract with Pro Bowl strong-side linebacker Elvis Dumervil. Harrison later signed a two-year, $4.45 million contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Now the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year faces his old team Monday night.
If Harrison holds any kind of grudge against the Steelers, he isn't letting on.
"No surprise. I knew when we first started talking and negotiating that things didn't look like I was going to end up there," Harrison said during a conference call. "We couldn't come to an agreement that was comfortable with them and comfortable to me. We parted ways. It's just the business."
With his glowering demeanor and serious personality, Harrison became popular with "Hard Knocks" viewers this summer as he made clear his loathing of the HBO cameras' constant presence.
Harrison insists that he isn't placing any extra importance on this game.
"It's another game on the schedule," Harrison said. "It's a divisional game, so it means a little more than the rest. You can believe what you want. I can only tell you what it is. I can't change your thinking process."
Just like his approach to his financial dealings, Harrison is all business when it comes to football.
"If you do know James, you appreciate that about him," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "It's less about what he says and more about what he does. That guy's a hard-core professional the way he works. He provided a great example of that for young guys around here."
Haley downplays Deadspin report
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has plenty to concern himself with this week.
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Foremost is Pittsburgh's anemic offensive performance during a 16-9 loss to the Tennessee Titans in which Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked five times, the running game generated only 31 yards on 15 carries and two of the team's nine points came via a safety.
The last thing the former Kansas City Chiefs coach needed was to land on Deadspin.com this week, accused of getting into a confrontation with a drunken, heckling fan at a hotel bar.
"There were no words exchanged," Haley told reporters. "There was no security involved. Nothing like that happened. Geez, I was out with my wife."
Haley acknowledged that he and his family have been staying at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Upper St. Clair, Pa., while his house is being refurbished. He admitted autographing a napkin for a fan that read: "Go Steelers! Chiefs suck!!" that was later published on Deadspin, but said it was just a joke.
"I wrote what I did in jest," Haley said. "I've never at any time said anything negative about the team that gave me a chance to be a head coach."