Bengals introduce newest members of offensive line

CINCINNATI – Ted Karras and Alex Cappa had never met before Tuesday, but Karras figures they’ll get to know each other pretty quickly.

“I’m a vocal guy,” the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Karras said Friday afternoon. “I’m excited to get to know everybody and to building relationships.”

Karras and the 6-6, 305-pound Cappa met with the media shortly after passing physicals, signing contracts as a free agents and officially becoming members of the Cincinnati Bengals, hopefully shoring up an offensive line that has helped allow quarterback Joe Burrow to be sacked 100 times in his first two seasons, including 70 in 20 games last season.

“Expectations are always high,” Cappa said. “That’s how we want it.”

The Bengals also introduced tight end Hayden Hurst, who agreed to a one-year contract as a free agent. The 6-4, 260-pound Hurst, Baltimore’s first-round pick and the 25th overall selection in the 2018 draft, spent the last two seasons with Atlanta.

“All I’ve ever needed was a opportunity and a chance, and I’ve finally been given it here,” said Hurst, who is expected to replace C.J. Uzomah, who signed as a free agent with the Jets. “Whatever (coach Zac Taylor) asks me to do, I’ll do it at a million miles an hour.”

Taylor announced that center Trey Hopkins had been released. The 6-3, 316-pound Hopkins started 15 games last season but struggled while coming back from surgery to repair an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

Acquiring Karras and Cappa are the first moves in reshaping the line, which could include moving 6-5, 330-pound Fairfield High School graduate Jackson Carman to left guard.

“Jackson will definitely compete for a spot,” offensive line coach Frank Pollack said. “There’s a lot of things in motion. You’ve got to be flexible. I think he’d be more natural on the left side. That’s where he played in college.

“He’s doing things as far as training,” Pollack added. “I’m proud of the way he’s invested in himself as far as his approach during the offseason.”

Left unresolved was the status of highly regarded 6-4, 320-pound offensive tackle La’el Collins, just released by the Dallas Cowboys and reportedly in Cincinnati for a visit.

“I have a great relationship with La’el,” said Pollack, who coached Collins with the Cowboys. “I love him to death. He’s nasty. He’s a lot of fun to coach.”

Karras, previously with the New England Patriots, is projected to move back to center, which he played in 2019 and 2020 before being shifted last season to left guard. Cappa is expected to take over at right guard, where’s he’s been built a solid reputation over his first four seasons in the NFL. The two met for the first time on Thursday and had dinner with quarterback Joe Burrow at The Precinct. Both ordered Steak Burrow – medium rare.

“I’m excited to be here,” Cappa said.

“They’ll fit right in to the offensive line room,” Taylor said.

Knowing both players have contributed to Super Bowl-winning teams made them that much more attractive, Taylor added. He hopes their experience can help the Bengals reach that next level after they fell short in last season’s Super Bowl loss to the Rams.

“They play ball the right way,” Taylor said. “They’ve won three Super Bowls between them. They’ve been to the top of the mountain. They know how to finish the job.”

Karras, the third Ted Karras to play in the NFL and a great-nephew of Hall of Fame defensive lineman Alex Karras and defensive lineman Lou Karras, helped New England win two Super Bowls since being picked out of Illinois in the sixth round of the 2016 draft. Cappa played with quarterback Tom Brady on the Tampa Bay team that won the Super Bowl after the 2020 season.

The next task for Pollack and his two new linemen is getting them all on the same page. Pollack described it as being similar to learning a new language.

“It’s like if you speak Italian and I speak French, and we both want a pepperoni pizza,” Pollack said. “We both know what it looks like. It’s a matter of learning each other’s language.”

“I like learning a new language,” Karras said. “I’m very excited about the challenge it poses.”

Hurst was looking forward to the opportunity to prove he was worth being a first round pick.

“I’m excited to get here and get working and get things going,” he said. “People forget how quick I am. I was a 25th overall pick for a reason. I’m going to prove it here. It’s a perfect system for me.”

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