Without looking it up, I’d be willing to bet that no team in the NFL is getting more production out of its fourth round draft picks than Cincinnati.
Not only did the Bengals select one of the NFL’s best defensive players in that round – Geno Atkins in 2010 – but Robert Geathers (2004), Domata Peko (2006), Clint Boling (2011), Orson Charles (2012) and Russell Bodine (2014) are all potential opening day starters that were selected in the fourth round.
And then there’s Sean Porter.
The linebacker from Texas A&M was the Bengals fourth round pick last year, but missed his rookie season due to a torn shoulder labrum.
“It happened at practice right after the first preseason game,” said Porter. “A tight end ran a vertical route on me, I took him on with my arm straight, and my shoulder came out of place.
“It was rough. All you can do is move forward. God always has a plan.”
Being sidelined was a new experience for Porter who never suffered a serious injury in college where he played in 52 games including 41 starts for the Aggies. His shoulder is fully healed now and Sean was back on the field in the Bengals recent OTA and minicamp practices.
“It felt pretty good after a few months, but I don’t know if I could have actually gone back on the field last year,” said Porter. “Luckily I had plenty of time to recover and make sure that I’m fine. I’m definitely back to 100 percent now.
“I haven’t been on a football field in a long time so this was my first time getting back out there on the grass. I’m excited to be back out there with the team, but I still have a lot of work to do.”
“He’s been good,” said linebackers coach Matt Burke. “He missed all that time last year and he’s been knocking the rust off, but he’s been doing good so far.
“He played a lot of good football in his college career. He was a captain at Texas A&M and he’s really knowledgeable. He’s a smart kid, he’s played the position a lot, and he’s seen a lot of football from that spot. Even though he didn’t get the work last year, mentally he’s on top of that stuff.”
In one of the Bengals recent practices, Porter opened eyes with a red zone interception of Andy Dalton.
“He’s been close on some stuff and been in the right spot and that was one of the first times that he made a ‘flash’ play,” said Burke. “It was in the red zone and those are the types of plays we want to see there. It was good for him to make a play like that and hear guys hooting his name a little bit.”
“I feel like I’ve been doing OK,” said Porter. “I’m still playing catch-up coming off of the injury from last year, but I’m just trying to learn the playbook and get back out here with these guys.”
Sean is one of several linebackers who will be battling for a roster spot in training camp. Assuming that Vontaze Burfict, Rey Maualuga, Emmanuel Lamur, and Vinny Rey are locks to stick, that leaves Porter, JK Schaffer, Jason DiManche, Marquis Flowers, Brandon Joiner, and James Davidson batting for two or three spots.
“There are a lot of guys in that mix,” said Burke. “We have four veteran guys at linebacker that have been around and played a little bit, and Sean is part of the crew that’s competing for those spots.”
“You need competition to get better in this league and it’s a blessing to have a whole lot of good guys to compete against, play with, and learn from,” said Porter. “I’m trying to show that I’m ready to be part of this team and contribute.”
And trying to become another under-the-radar fourth round draft pick to pay off for the Bengals.
“I’m not really here for the spotlight,” said Porter. “I’m just here to help this team win.”
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