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Andre Smith takes brief benching in stride
Question of the Day
CINCINNATI (AP) - Andre Smith gave up a sack and got yanked from the game, the latest setback for the Bengals’ struggling right tackle.
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.
“To all the Cincy fans that have blasted my guy over the past yr … andre smith is doing his thing tonight against one of the best!” agent Alvin Keels tweeted.
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.
A lot of attention will go to Smith the rest of the way. He left practice early on Wednesday after someone stepped on his foot, but was still listed as the starter for a game Sunday in Indianapolis.
“He’s just making progress each and every week in the way he plays,” Lewis said before practice. “That’s what we’re evaluating _ how he plays, how he gets it done on Sundays _ and I think he’s making a lot of progress.”
Quarterback Carson Palmer agreed that Smith has improved since the start of the season.
“You have to remember he’s still young,” Palmer said. “He really didn’t play last year, so this is essentially his rookie year. Just a couple weeks ago, he started for the first time. Just like any young guy, it’s a process and it takes time.”
The Bengals have to make a decision on his contract after the season. Smith got a four-year deal that included $21 million guaranteed. The team has an option after this season that would extend it to a six-year deal with $29.5 million guaranteed. If he doesn’t play much better in the second half of the season, he won’t get the extra time.
Notes: QB Carson Palmer sat out practice with a sore passing shoulder. He was sacked four times by the Steelers. Lewis said he’ll play against the Colts. … Ochocinco also sat out practice with a sore ankle but is expected to play as well. Five others were sidelined by illness or injury, including DT Tank Johnson, who missed the Steelers game with an injured knee.
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