The Cincinnati Bengals brought back a familiar face Thursday when they signed Andre Smith to help an offensive line that suddenly is down its two left tackles.
Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn missed Sunday’s game against the Browns with a back injury, and backup Jake Fisher exited just before halftime with the same problem. Fisher was placed on injured reserve Thursday, and Glenn hasn’t practiced all week as Cincinnati (5-6) prepares to host the Denver Broncos (5-6) on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Smith, originally the Bengals’ first-round draft pick out of Alabama in 2009, has primarily played right tackle during his 10-year NFL career, but said he will do whatever he is asked — he didn’t know yet where the team wanted to use him. The Bengals also could move left guard Clint Boling out to tackle.
“Whatever they want me to play, left, right, guard,” Smith said. “(I was) all over the place today (in practice).”
Cincinnati is like home to Smith, who had spent eight of his last nine NFL seasons with Cincinnati before signing with Arizona as an unrestricted free agent in March.
Smith played his first seven seasons with the Bengals, then left in 2016 to play for Mike Zimmer’s Minnesota Vikings but returned last year and didn’t expect to be back so soon. He played in eight of the Cardinals’ first 11 games, including starting Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
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“You never know how it’s going to go,” Smith said. “The NFL can be tricky sometimes, but I’m just blessed, happy with the opportunity that’s been given to me. A lot of guys are sitting at home right now.”
Arizona released him on Monday, the Bengals called him Tuesday night after he cleared waivers and by Wednesday morning he was making plans to come to Cincinnati. He arrived late Wednesday night and signed first thing Thursday.
“I guess it’s ‘Old faithful,’ so to speak,” Smith said of Cincinnati. “It’s been good to me. It’s a great family-oriented organization. I’m just happy to be here. … It’s a tremendous opportunity, just to be in the NFL and be in the building.”
Smith said he will be ready to jump right in and play Sunday, despite the offense being completely different from a year ago when Bill Lazor replaced Ken Zampese as offensive coordinator after just two games.
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Lazor has changed the playbook a lot, Smith said, and the terminology and technique under new offensive line coach Frank Pollack are different as well. He also will be playing with a fourth new Bengals quarterback in his tenure, as Jeff Driskel replaces injured Andy Dalton .
However, the differences in the offense won’t prevent him from being able to play immediately.
“It’s still football at the end of the day,” Smith said. “The field is still 100 yards, 53 whatever yards wide. I just have to go out there and fight and compete every day.
“I’ve played a lot of football. I’ve been in a lot of playbooks, so it should come pretty easy. I’m just going to try to get in my notebook as much as I can, give myself the best opportunity to be on the field Sunday to compete and help them win the game.”
Boling doesn’t doubt Smith can help. He has played with Smith for six seasons.
“Andre was playing on Sunday,” Boling said. “You know, so he’s obviously in football shape. He hopefully has somebody that we can communicate with him and let him know what’s going. He’s a guy that’s played a lot of football and he’ll be able to pick up on what’s going on pretty quickly.”
The line could see a lot of adjustments Sunday.
Boling played tackle the last two games of the 2017 season and said he would be comfortable there if asked to play.
“It’s just one of those things, whatever the coaches ultimately decide, I think everybody feels good about whatever they decide and we’ll go from there,” Boling said. “I mean, I know what to do. I’ve been in the system before so I think we should be fine. I think everybody’s on the same page.”
Cincinnati shuffled around players throughout training camp for this very reason, Boling said. Trey Hopkins moved from guard to fill in for center Billy Price while he was out with a foot injury earlier this season, and now others could be sliding around too.
“I think it’s one of those things, as the year goes along guys get banged up and some guys have to move around,” Boling said. “Whatever we decide with, I think everybody is going to be good to go in that situation.”
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