Andre Smith wasn’t worried about whether he would get another opportunity to play in the NFL again when the Cincinnati Bengals came calling about the possibility of bringing him back.
The Bengals just seem to keep finding need for their 2009 first-round draft pick.
Smith, an 11th-year offensive tackle, has spent most of his career in Cincinnati with the exception of a stint with Minnesota in 2016 and half of last year with Arizona before rejoining the Bengals to close the season.
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This time, Cincinnati had an unexpected need with first-round draft pick Jonah Williams likely out for the year because of shoulder surgery and left guard Clint Boling retiring for health reasons. Smith went through a workout in front of the coaches last Wednesday and signed the next day. He jumped right into the mix for the start of training camp.
“I set myself financially well enough that I could wait a little bit, so it was cool (waiting for a call),” Smith said. “It was no stress, grinding my butt off. A lot of people say I look really good so I’m excited about that. Just a situation happened where Clint went down, Jonah went down and they knew me and I came in and did everything I needed to do and it worked out.”
Smith was released by the Cardinals after eight games last year, and the Bengals picked him up to try to help a struggling offensive line. He played three games, then became a free agent again and didn’t necessarily expect to be back; however, he looked forward to returning to Cincinnati, where he is familiar with the organization, if not the staff. With new coach Zac Taylor making several changes this offseason, it was almost like coming home to a completely different situation.
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Taylor is implementing a West Coast offense with a playbook Smith looked forward to diving into, but even before getting into the X’s and O’s, he could see how changes have impacted the players.
“It feels totally different,” Smith said. “Guys seem to have more energy, really buying into the new system and I see all hands on deck.”
Smith adds some much-needed depth at the tackle position, where Williams was expected to start on the left side. Cordy Glenn had switched to left guard during the offseason workout program, but likely ends up back at left tackle, and Bobby Hart remains at right tackle.
Guard John Jerry joined the team for minicamp just before the summer break, and Christian Westerman will get plenty of reps inside as well. John Miller, who the Bengals acquired in free agency from Buffalo, is expected to start at right guard, and Trey Hopkins is playing center with Billy Price on the inactive/non-football injury list. Price is expected to return within the next week or two, according to Taylor.
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“It’s a great group of guys right now in the room,” Smith said. “I’m just going to work hard and just push each other and put the best five out there.”
Smith said he is ready for whatever role the Bengals have for him. Drafted as a left tackle, he has played on the right throughout his NFL career but said he could go either way.
His goal is to be more vocal, whether he’s on the sideline or in the huddle, and “just be the guy they can depend on.” With so many new guys on the offensive line, he expects to be looked to as one of the leaders.
“I think I’m most definitely ready for that,” Smith said. “I think last year prepared me a little bit coming here at the end of the season and being a guy to help guys see different things they may not see and watching film and just being a guy they could depend on that if I see something on the field I could tell them, just be that extra eye.”