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Andre Smith takes brief benching in stride
How did he take it?
“It doesn’t really hurt your pride,” Smith said on Wednesday. “It can if you let it deter you a little bit. But it’s up to you to have your mojo to go out there and compete and collect yourself.”
Smith did that during the second half of a 27-21 loss to Pittsburgh on Monday night, going back on the field for the next series and finishing the game while his agent tweeted in his defense.
The Bengals expected a lot more out of Smith at this point in his career.
Cincinnati made him the sixth overall pick out of Alabama last year, expecting him to take over at right tackle rather quickly with his knack for flattening defenders with his run blocking. Instead, he got into a contract impasse that wiped out most of his training camp. Two days after he signed, he broke his left foot.
The injury limited him to six games as a rookie, including one start. The Bengals expected him to open this season as a starter, but he had surgery on the left foot in the offseason and was slow to recover, showing up for training camp out of shape.
Coach Marvin Lewis was so exasperated with Smith that he talked about putting him on the physically unable to perform list, which would have cost the lineman money. His contract stipulates that he loses half of his paycheck if he weighs more than 350 pounds or isn’t on the 45-man roster. His base salary is $1.08 million this year.
“Andre’s going to figure out how to become a pro and do things the way it’s asked to do all the time,” Lewis said during camp. “Hopefully he continues to do it in a timely fashion. Because otherwise, I’m not going to go through this year in and year out.”
He lost weight and stayed on the roster, moving into the starting lineup for the past three games. Smith struggled against the Steelers, and Lewis yanked him after he gave up a sack in the third quarter.
“You can’t give up the sack, so we pulled him out,” Lewis said afterward. “Nobody has a right to play here. We’re going to play guys that are going to get it done right for us.”
Smith didn’t read too much into the brief benching.
“Just a coaching decision,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to clear my head, go back in there and refocus. I just had a little mental breakdown.”
Lewis also pulled Chad Ochocinco out of the game briefly because the receiver became frustrated that he wasn’t getting the ball. The loss dropped the defending AFC North champions to 2-6, essentially scuttling their season.
By Donald Lambro
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