Three players that came into the NFL last season as college free agents and spent some time on the Bengals practice squad were released Thursday as the Bengals make plans for next weekend’s rookie minicamp. Waived were Indiana State wide receiver Justin Hilton, Morgan State fullback Jourdan Brooks, and Arizona State tackle Dan Knapp.
Tags: Bengals cuts
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The damndest thing is that a generation ago on Patriots Day I wrote a column for the Portland Press Herald about the nurse who ran the medical tent at the Boston Marathon.
She was a local, born and bred in southern Maine before she headed to make a life in Massachusetts. I have no idea where she is now. But if I had a buck for every time I thought of Joanie Casey this Patriots Day, I’d be richer than Andre Smith and James Harrison combined.
Not just Joanie Casey. But anybody else who ever left their heart on Heartbreak Hill. Or got on their tiptoes to cheer and glimpse them down Boylston Street. Or put a notepad in front of a euphoric finisher still shivering in that aluminum foil shawl in the heart of Copley Square.
Like Boston Billy Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson, who shocked the Boston course in a much different way only because they had the audacity to come out of anonymity and win it.
Or like Charles Pierce, the once and always great Boston sports columnist who wrote so beautifully and well Monday from a war zone in a dispatch that surfaced just after 5 p.m. that centered on his conversation with an EMT amid the devastation. Which means from the time the bombs went off, incredibly, it took him about as long as a Boston Marathon winner to steady himself, reshuffle his thoughts, spill them into cyberspace, and post.
Just over two hours.
But mainly I thought of Nurse Casey.
That Patriots Day in the late ’80s, I called her the Hawkeye Pierce of the Boston Marathon. How could you know? How could you know that a generation later Copley Square would be turned into an honest to God MASH unit?
What was more horrific Monday? An ancient finish line sanctified as one of the most revered in sports with blood, sweat and tears, splattered with just blood? Or the agonizing words that crawled across the bottom of the killing zone?
Shrapnel. IEDs. Amputations.
Where did the runs, hits and errors go?
Joanie Casey’s medical tent brought limbs back to life. That’s what is supposed to happen at the end of marathons. Cramps not carnage. Blisters not bombs.
She had gallons of Gatorade at fingertips and wasn’t pleading for plasma. Her army pumped IVs into the most spent finishers, not taking blood from runners who had been transformed into donors once they reached the line. Muscle pulls were carefully kneaded out of calves instead of ball bearings and nails feverishly picked out of feet and thighs.
A marathon is supposed to be about the best of us, not the worst. Courage and competition, not cowardice. The purity of the clock and not the treachery of politics. Majesty, not madness.
The Revolutionary War ended with the British surrendering to the tune called “The World Turned Upside Down.” But didn’t the world turn upside down on this Patriots Day, the day we celebrate the start of the revolution?
Wasn’t there a kid about 13 years old taken to Boston Children’s Hospital on Monday and in ’72 didn’t you slump out of Fenway Park on Patriots Day after watching Cleveland’s Milt Wilcox two-hit the Red Sox? Duane Josephson got them both. Two moon shots off The Monster with the Marathon winner pulling into the finish about an hour later.
Wasn’t there a kid about 17 years old taken to Children’s on Monday and didn’t you make two errors at first base in a road game in the same inning when you couldn’t resist watching the hottest Marathon run by you on Route 9 in 1976 in Wellesley?
The medical tent this Patriots Day turned out to be the surprise winner of the Boston Marathon they’ll never forget. God knows how many more would have died if the doctors and nurses and their equipment hadn’t already been poised. Even if it was for cramps instead of carnage.
And as Monday bled into Tuesday and the news kept coming like the runners coming into Copley until the finish line clock read 4:09:43, I still hadn’t heard the name of the winner. If I did, I didn’t remember.
But I thought of Joanie Casey again and felt a little better.
The world may be terribly upside down this morning. But the medical tent has already begun the healing.
We’ll know the winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Tags: 2013 Boston Marathon
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Monday is kicking off a big week at Paul Brown Stadium, the last full one before the April 25-27 draft.
The Bengals begin their offseason workouts Monday and the first bevy of locker-room quotes since the players bagged their disappointment and belongings in the Jan. 7 Cleanout should start hitting cyberspace around 9:45 a.m.
Among the things we’ll hear is that left tackle Andrew Whitworth is recovering well from his knee surgery and expects to be back for the first day of training camp in late July and the same with rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. They may not be seen on the field during the spring, which is why the Bengals are looking for some bodies, particularly on the offensive line.
Also certain to be heard is that middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is in the best shape of his NFL career with the help of his MMA training in Los Angeles and that new SAM backer candidate Aaron Maybin is excited about the chance to join the lengthy list of players that have revived their careers under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer: Safeties Chris Crocker and Reggie Nelson, cornerbacks Terence Newman and Adam Jones, and linebackers Dhani Jones and Thomas Howard to name a few.
And franchise player Michael Johnson won’t be on the premises since he’s finishing up his semester’s work at Georgia Tech and is expected when the Bengals go on the field the week of May 20.
Also Monday, the Bengals should have a pretty good idea where the James Harrison thing is going. It’s believed the Bengals gave Harrison an offer over the weekend and that the sides have decided to talk about it Monday. It sounds like Harrison wants to be here and that head coach Marvin Lewis has already struck up a good relationship with him, and that means a lot in these parts and could very well bode well for a deal fairly quickly.
It looks like Harrison is Lewis’s kind of guy, a throwback to Lewis’s Greg Lloyd days in Pittsburgh when he loved coaching a deadly serious pro who had no fear, backed down from no one, and was all football. And it looks like Lewis has what Harrison wants, a top 10 defense that can win the AFC North.
(A snapshot to just how Lewis relates to players could be seen last week when he saw middle backer Vontaze Burfict for the first time since Jan. 7 and they wrestled around in a playful greeting. Then he promptly shot down Burfict’s request for a locker change.)
On Monday the Bengals are also expected to announce they’ve re-signed running back Bernard Scott and signed former Browns tight end Alex Smith.
Then on Tuesday morning the Bengals are hosting 31 college prospects that played high school or college in the metro Cincinnati area. It’s also the first Tuesday the NFL schedule could be released.
During the rest of the week the Bengals figure to entertain the last of their 30 draft prospects that each team is allowed to bring to its facility.
Tags: Aaron Maybin, Andrew Whitworth, Dre Kirkpatrick, James Harrison, Marvin Lewis, Michael Johnson, Rey Maualuga
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The Bengals have terminated the contract of cornerback Jason Allen, releasing him to free agency.
Allen last season played his seventh NFL season and his first for the Bengals. He was limited by injuries and played in only four games for Cincinnati, with two tackles on defense and one on special teams.
Tags: Jason Allen
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Tuesday’s visit of Akeem Jordan underlines Cincinnati’s interest in veteran linebackers with the Bengals apparently searching for a SAM backer to go along with an assortment of draft prospects. With the draft just two weeks away, more free-agent backer visits figure to be on the way.
The 6-1 Jordan, who has been listed anywhere from 225 to 230 pounds, would figure to be here what he was in Philadelphia the past six seasons, which was primarily a backup/special-teamer.
There’s not a lot of room left on the defense with head coach Marvin Lewis saying he’s going to stick with Rey Maualuga at middle linebacker while virtually all his starters and regulars are intact except for starting SAM backer Manny Lawson and safety Chris Crocker.
Lawson only played about a third of the snaps and this upcoming season Maualuga and starting WILL backer Vontaze Burfict figure to get the bulk of the plays again if the same alignment is used. Plus there is emerging WILL backer Emmanuel Lamur, who played well on nickel downs late in his rookie season.
But the Bengals look like they are kicking tires on veterans and college prospects to see if they can upgrade the SAM spot and maybe get a guy that can play more.
They have been looking at backers all offseason, starting when the Raiders were shopping 2010 first-rounder Rolando McClain before Oakland cut him. But the Bengals had no interest even before they re-signed Maualuga.
The one spot that is wide open is the safety opposite Reggie Nelson. With no plans as of yet to re-sign Crocker, the Bengals have dipped a toe into the veteran market but seem intent on getting younger there via the draft. They did visit with former Saint and Brown Usama Young last Friday, but word was Tuesday that Young opted to reunite with one of his New Orleans coaches and now the Oakland head coach, Dennis Allen.
Tags: Akeem Jordan, Rey Maualuga, Usama Young, Vontaze Burfict
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The Bengals continue to kick the tires on veteran running backs. After entertaining Beanie Wells last month, they took a look at Felix Jones on Monday, according to dallascowboys.com.
But as happened with Wells, there were no signs the Bengals were making a deal late Monday and the move could be for later in the spring. They may want to see how the draft plays out before deciding to sign a veteran. Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden has said he wouldn’t mind finding a back to pair with BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the Bengals haven’t re-upped Brian Leonard or Bernard Scott with Cedric Peerman penciled in as the potential third-down back.
But the 5-10, 217-pound Jones, who turns 26 the week after the draft, fits the explosive speed trait the Bengals seek to team with Green-Ellis. Despite missing 16 games, he’s averaging 4.8 yards per career rush. He carried just 111 times last year in Dallas and had a career-low 3.6 yards per attempt.
Tags: Beanie Wells, Felix Jones, Jay Gruden
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There’s no question that the Bengals are going to scout the top quarterbacks in the April 25-27 draft.
The question is, are they going to draft him on April 26 or April 27?
They continue the process Friday, when Joe Reedy of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports the Bengals will work out Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel in Tallahassee. And it would be no surprise if Manuel is one of the 30 prospects they’ve scheduled for a Paul Brown Stadium visit before the draft.
There isn’t anybody the Bengals are not checking out at this stage. At any position. Anybody, at least, that’s got a shot of being drafted and they’re also looking at guys they’ll end up signing after the draft in the mold of Vontaze Burfict, Emmanuel Lamur and Jeromy Miles.
The Bengals have somebody at every pro day. While head coach Marvin Lewis stalked the North Carolina sidelines with East Coast scout Greg Seamon this week, the same day new assistant secondary coach Adam Zimmer was at the University of Connecticut.
(Odds are the Bengals won’t draft a guy from either place, but here’s where we’ll make our pitch for Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard.)
But the only way the Bengals would get Manuel is if he free-falls into the third round.
No one thinks the Bengals are going to take a quarterback with one of their first three picks in the first two rounds, knowing how they have felt about those picks in the past. They’re going to want those guys to come in and start. Or, at the very least, play regularly.
The third round figures to the first time the Bengals start even gazing at the QBs and given they are usually over-drafted, particularly in a lean year, it could be fairly picked over.
But the Bengals aren’t looking for a Manuel-type to come in and eventually be a starter. They’re looking to support Andy Dalton with better competition and a young guy talented enough that they can develop who can come in and win games off the bench if need be. A future Ryan Fitzpatrick, perhaps, a seventh-rounder in 2005.
If the Bengals draft a guy that’s not ready, then they could go back to keeping three QBs instead of two to develop him without fear of him getting plucked from the practice squad and keep up the hunt for a veteran that began with the Josh Johnson signing.
But Dalton himself is part of that influx the past two seasons that shows rookie QBs don’t have to be treated like some delicate experiment in a Petri dish that can’t be exposed to harsh light for a year. The Redskins got two wins off the bench from fourth-rounder Kirk Cousins just this past season.
Browns quarterback Colt McCoy is trade bait now, but it’s highly doubtful the Bengals would give up a draft pick for him. If he gets released it could be interesting, but they’ve also been cautious with players that have a history of concussions and he has a storied one.
So we know the Bengals will work them out, but when will they take him? April 26 ends with the third round, April 27 has all the rest.
Tags: Adam Zimmer, Colt McCoy, E.J. Manuel, Greg Seamon, Marvin Lewis, Ryan Fitzpartrick
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Offseason workouts don’t start for another month but three Bengals are headed to Paul Brown Stadium on Thursday to work the phones at 2:30 p.m. to thank Bengals season-ticket holders for renewing. Defensive tackle Domata Peko and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the team’s de facto captains, along with cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, one of last season’s first-round draft picks, plan to make the thank you calls.
Tags: Andrew Whitworth, Domata Peko, Dre Kirkpatrick
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Various reports Thursday night had Bengals offensive coordinators past and present on hand in Syracuse to watch Orange quarterback Ryan Nassib’s campus workout earlier in the day for NFL scouts.
Ken Anderson, who also doubles as the Bengals all-time leading passer, was there as one of Nassib’s coaches. Gruden was there because the Bengals appear to be in search of a backup quarterback with Bruce Gradkowski headed to free agency.
Gruden’s appearance in the ‘Cuse would suggest the Bengals are looking seriously at the draft as well as free agency. How high they would draft one is emerging as quite the intriguing question. Nfldraftscout.com has Nassib rated as the fifth-ranked quarterback and they go quickly on Draft Day.
Anderson said he spoke with Gruden before the workout and Gruden’s tight schedule didn’t allow them to speak after, but Jeff Reynolds of nfldraftscout.com reported that the Bengals had set up a visit with Nassib. The Jets, he said, were taking him to dinner and the Bills, now coached by Nassib’s college coach Doug Marrone, were represented by general manager Buddy Nix.
With Anderson and longtime NFL offensive coordinator Paul Hackett running the workout, Reynolds charted Nassib completing 69 of 75 passes.
“I was really pleased with how he looked,” Anderson said Thursday night. “I thought he really showed good arm strength today.”
Anderson ticked off Nassib’s pluses in a pro offense:
“First of all, he’s very smart,” Anderson said. “That’s the big thing. And he’s used to making pro throws. His mechanics are solid, his footwork is good. He really had a good day.”
Tags: Ryan Nassib Jay Gruden Ken Anderson
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The men who oversee the Bengals quarterbacks, position coach Ken Zampese and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, appreciate what 49ers rookie Colin Kaepernick brings to the position in Sunday’s Final Four and what Washington’s Robert Griffin III brings to the Rookie of the Year vote. And they see a trend coming out of the colleges featuring a new breed of running/athletic quarterback that is going to challenge the NFL offensive coordinators to implement some of those elements.
But the dropback passer is no extinct species, they say. As Zampese looks around in the conference championship games, he also sees two traditional guys that came out in 2008 in Baltimore’s Joe Flacco and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. And there’s also the guy in New England. Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.
This talk of the best of Sunday’s field? “He’s the best of 32. Not the best of four,” Zampese says of New England’s ultimate pocket passer.
“You still have to make a throw. But if you can buy time, you can look for more opportunities to make a throw. I think that’s where some of those guys can really make hay in this league. You still have to throw, and make a good accurate throw. But if athletically you can create more opportunities, that are good. These guys running around are still passers at heart first … all these guys can still do that. That’s why they’re so valuable.”
Gruden has watched how Kaepernick took over the 49ers the last half of the season, culminating with last Sunday’s NFL record for a quarterback with 181 rushing yards.
“They’ve got a stellar offensive line that’s been playing well and Michael Crabtree has emerged as a leading receiver. That’s not taking anything away from Colin because he’s done some great things,” Gruden says. “They’ve had positive down and distance. They’ve not been in any third-and-longs, and if they are, Colin has made some plays with his feet.”
Zampese says the supporting cast has allowed the New Breed to make an immediate impact.
“The thing about the new guys having success is they’re doing it on teams with top five defenses and top five rushing attacks,” Zampese says. “You throw it more than 30 times and all of a sudden guys get exposed because there’s a lot more pressure on the quarterback to make a throw. Keep the attempts closer to 20 and life is good.”
While the Bengals watched TCU’s Andy Dalton play for the South in the 2011 Senior Bowl, they coached Kaepernick for the North and while they liked a lot about him, he didn’t fit what they needed at the time. As Gruden recalls, “We didn’t have a quarterback.” The Bengals needed one right away for Opening Day and even Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers head coach that traded up to get Kaepernick with the 36th pick, knew Kaepernick was at least a year away. The Bengals, thrilled with how Dalton projected into running Gruden’s West Coast scheme, identified him as their top guy from that class and grabbed him at No. 35.
How raw was Kaepernick coming out of Nevada running the Pistol formation? “Extremely raw. Sidearm fastballs. Kent Tekulve,” Zampese says of the great Pirates submarine closer. He was going to take some time and we were in the market where we need something a little different. We highlighted the guy with a ton of experience.” But that doesn’t mean the Bengals didn’t have regard for Kaepernick.
“Fun guy to be around. Very coachable. He doesn’t have an inflated opinion of himself. He just wants to be good,” Zampese says. “He’s young and impressionable in a good way. He’s solid with who he is. He’s got a foundation of personality in the huddle that is electric. You feel like when he’s playing, you’ve got a chance. That’s what jumped out at me that week.”
The Bengals got the same sense of huddle presence from Dalton and both clubs have been rewarded. Dalton is 19-13 as a starter with two playoff berths in two seasons. Kaepernick has his team a game away from the Super Bowl. Zampese loves the way Dalton’s overall stats not only rose from his rookie season this year, but when he made the commitment to cut back on throwing interceptions, the Bengals went 7-1 in the last eight games.
“He’s growing. If his numbers keep improving like that, we’ll win 10-plus games,” Zampese says of 2013. “If his passer rating is in the mid-90s, we’re winning 10-plus games. If the touchdown passes to interceptions are two-to-one, we’re winning 10-plus games.”
Zampese is extremely impressed that in his last eight games, Dalton threw five picks compared to 11 in the first half of the season. He knows improvement is needed after what happened in the last month and the playoff loss in Houston. But …
“That mentality you love to see. We want him to fix it and he does,”‘ Zampese says. “And we played worse offensively, yet we won more games, which is interesting to note. We talked about taking too much risk in some of those decisions and we needed to cut back the risk. It made a difference. It didn’t show up in yards and points, but it made a difference in wins and losses.”
That’s the kind of thinking the Bengals believe gets teams to win playoff games and why they think the moxie of Dalton with his 11-5 road record and two Decembers of stretch pressure is going to be even more valuable as his career progresses. The Bengals aren’t looking for him to be Kaepernick, Flacco, Ryan or Brady. They look at a guy that doesn’t have great speed or a huge deep ball and they see a Drew Brees, a Super Bowl MVP with yet another style.
“It takes all kinds. You see it this weekend. You’ve got everything at quarterback,” Zampese says. “Andy is Andy. He’s not this guy or that guy. The guy is a point guard who can get the ball to all parts of the field. And he’s a fighter. That’s what you want.”
The read option?
“Not even close. Brady is the best in the game,” Gruden says with a laugh. “He can do it all. Except run the read option. Who gives a crap?”
Tags: Ken Zampese
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