This is why Reggie Kelly is so admired around these parts.
After finishing a workout on a field near his Northern Kentucky home Friday morning, he returned a phone call and immediately praised the selection of the guy that at some point is going to end up taking his job as the Bengals No. 1 tight end.
“It was a smart move, honestly, and I applaud the Bengals for making it,” Kelly said of Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham. “It was a sound business decision and I wish the young kid nothing but the best. I don’t know much about him, but from what I’ve heard he plays tough.”
That doesn’t mean Kelly is ready to hang them up. At 33 and coming off a ruptured Achilles tendon, he believes he’s got something left to give and he wants to give it to the Bengals. After the draft, the plan is to talk with Jimmy Sexton, his agent, to see what the next step is. He has had some feelers from other teams (“I don’t want to give the number,” he says), but his first choice is to return to a locker room where he has been held in high regard for the last seven seasons as their spiritual leader.
On Friday, “The Reverend” acknowledged that Sexton and the Bengals are talking and said that money and length of the deal are probably the two things that have to get hammered out.
“When you get long in the tooth and coming off a crucial injury like this one, teams are going to be hesitant,” he said. “I realize that. They’re not sure if you can hold up for an entire season. I think if I can get my foot in the door, I think I can show people that I can still play.”
Kelly has said he worked out for the club the first week of April and felt he showed his repaired Achilles is stronger than his healthy one.
“Money isn’t my main thing,” Kelly said. “If I were to leave Cincinnati, it would have to be the right fit because I’m comfortable here and my family is comfortable here.”
Gresham couldn’t have a better mentor for his first year or two in Kelly, a deeply religious man who plays with the heart of a gladiator. Kelly’s physicality as a blocker has always been an X factor in protecting quarterback Carson Palmer and springing the running game.
“There’s the fun side of football and then there’s what I do. The dirty work,” Kelly said with a laugh. “But I like the excitement, too. I watch SportsCenter, too, and I like to watch guys catch touchdown passes and make big plays like this kid. I would play a backup role and be a mentor, but my mindset would be that I can still start. I’ll always have that mindset that I can start.”
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