Lewis shoots down notion of Hamilton-Ross race

Cincinnati Bengals first-round pick John Ross is fast, but he's not in a hurry. At least not when it comes to accepting Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton's challenge to a race .

“I saw that,” Ross said, referring to Hamilton’s comments after Thursday’s game. “Right now I’m just focused on what I’m supposed to be doing, just mini-camp, that’s the biggest thing right now. If he wants to do something later for the charity, I’ll probably be open to it.

“Billy’s a special player,” Ross added. “I’m thankful I’m in the position to be able to be challenged, but right now I’m just focused on what’s going on here.”

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Ross said he played baseball his freshman year in high school but gave up the sport.

“I’ve never got caught stealing, but it was hard for me to get on base,” he said.

After Friday’s first practice of rookie camp, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis basically shot down the idea of Ross racing Hamilton.

“John’s not a circus act. John’s a football player,” Lewis said. “Billy’s a fine baseball player and a great guy and is having a good season. Hopefully one day they’ll be able to meet and have a laugh about it, but I don’t think either one of them need to risk their careers in some kind of race.”

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Ross, who is coming off labrum surgery, did not participate in Friday’s practice other than mental reps, and he will not the rest of the weekend.

Per PAC-12 rules, he is ineligible to participate after this weekend until his class graduates June 10, but Lewis said he will not be medically cleared before the June 13-15 minicamp.

RedHawk revival: The only player at rookie camp who has played in an NFL game is Cincinnati native Bryson Albright, a linebacker who played 18 snaps on special teams and one on defense last season with the Buffalo Bills.

Undrafted out of Miami University, Albright signed as an undrafted free agent with the Bills and made the 53-man roster out of training camp. He was inactive for the season opener, then cut and re-signed to the practice squad. In December, he was added to the roster and played against the Steelers.

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The Bills waived Albright after the season, but he wasn’t out of work long.

“I was trying to figure out what my next move was going to be, then I got a call that the Bengals wanted to have a workout,” he said. “It was the next day they offered me a deal. I had been talking to the 49ers, but they didn’t have their staff fully in, so we didn’t know what it was going to look like.”

In addition to the draft picks, college free agents and tryout participants, players who were in the league last year but did not accrue an official season toward free agency are able to work out during rookie camp, and Albright said he is thankful for the opportunity.

“I’m always eager to prove my prowess on the football field,” he said. “Being an undrafted guy, you’re always kind of looking over your shoulder, looking for who’s the guy they’re going to bring in to try to beat you out. I just want to prove I belong in the league. Just because I’m an underdog doesn’t mean anything. I can still be out there playing with everybody else.”

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Tryout troops: Among the 11 drafted rookies and 13 college free agents, 19 players are participating in rookie camp on a tryout basis, including former Ohio State wide receiver Corey Smith.

The Akron native caught 20 passes for 255 yards during the Buckeyes national championship season in 2014, but he only appeared in eight games over his final two seasons due to a broken leg and broken wrist.

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“I got hurt at Ohio State the last two years I was there, so this is a big opportunity for me,” Smith said. “I’m just going to go out there and compete and do what I’ve got to do. I’ve been doing that since I was at Ohio State, competing with some of the best DBs around the country. It’s something I dreamed of as a kid, so I’m trying to make the most of it.”

Two other tryout players have local ties after playing high school football in the Greater Miami Conference. Illinois center Joe Spencer played at Mason, and Thomas More cornerback Brandon Neal at Lakota West.

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