GEORGETOWN, Ky. — The Cincinnati Bengals are waiting on offensive tackle Andre Smith again.
The former first-round draft pick has yet to get on the practice field with his Bengals teammates. He is working out on his own, trying to get in shape and get beyond foot problems that held him back as a rookie.
There is no telling whether he will be ready to start the season.
“I’m not going to worry about him until he’s in there,” offensive line coach Paul Alexander said between practices Wednesday. “That’s the only way you can operate.”
So far, Smith has been one of the Bengals’ biggest disappointments.
They took him with the sixth overall pick last year out of Alabama, where he was a dominating run blocker. They were so concerned about his weight problems that they sent an assistant coach to weigh him a few days before the draft, and only then they decided to make him their choice.
He got into a contract holdout that forced him to miss much of training camp in Georgetown and the first three preseason games. He finally agreed to a deal that includes a weight clause — he loses half of his paycheck if he weighs more than 350 pounds or isn’t on the 45-man roster.
Two days after he joined the team, he broke his left foot during a non-contact drill. The injury limited him to six games, including only one start, last season.
He had foot surgery when the season ended, and has been slow to get back into playing condition. Coach Marvin Lewis said Smith might end up on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he would miss the first six games.
“Andre stays on the progression of the doctor,” Lewis said. “We’ll see. But if not, then we still have the right to put him on the PUP and bring him in during the season.
“We’ll see how that goes with the whole foot and that entire thing.”
Smith’s base salary is $1.08 million this year, so he’d lose $31,700 for each game that he’s not on the 45-man roster or more than 350 pounds.
He has a lot of motivation to get in playing shape fast.
“I can’t worry about the time (frame),” Smith said Tuesday night, after a workout. “I just have to keep working hard and continue doing the things I’m asked to do. When coach Lewis feels the time is right, I’ll let him make that call.”
Dennis Roland, a former college free agent from Georgia, is starting in Smith’s spot at right tackle. Roland played in all 16 games last season, including 12 starts.
While the rest of his teammates worked out on an adjacent field this week, Smith donned black shorts and a black, long-sleeve workout shirt and practiced a few pass-blocking moves against Dermontti Dawson on another field. The former Steelers center is working with the Bengals during training camp as part of an intern coaching program.
“I’m not really teaching him anything,” Dawson said. “I’m just simulating the blocks that they do now, the blocks he would do as a right tackle. I just want to get him back into the groove of things and see how he moves and how he feels.”
Smith will be limited to working out on his own until he’s cleared by team doctors to join in practice. He works out three times a day and tries to ignore fans’ criticism of his work ethic.
“You hear it, but when you hear it, it’s up to you to prove the critics wrong,” Smith said. “I had to do something right to get drafted where I was. So I just need to keep working hard.”