CINCINNATI -- Receiver Laveranues Coles is making himself a secondary thought in Cincinnati.
The Bengals signed Coles as a free agent in March, the day after top receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle as a free agent. The Bengals insist that Coles, who played with Washington and the New York Jets, isn't being viewed as Houshmandzadeh's replacement in the offense.
"I love T.J.," receiver Chad Ochocinco said during the team's three-day minicamp. "T.J.'s gone. Laveranues is here. They're two different types of players -- completely different. They have two different types of styles, but they will both be successful."
Totally different personalities, too.
Houshmandzadeh was one of the most accessible players in the locker room, ready to talk after each bad moment during the Bengals' 4-11-1 season. So far, Coles has kept to himself.
"I came here to get away from (the media)," Coles said over his shoulder, when asked for an interview during Friday's minicamp. "You've got Ocho."
There are a few similarities between Coles and Houshmandzadeh. Both are 32 years old and have multiple 1,000-yard seasons and Pro Bowl appearances. Beyond that, they're very different.
Houshmandzadeh was a possession receiver in Cincinnati, their most reliable choice to make a catch in traffic on third down. He had 92 catches for 904 yards last season. Coles, who had 70 catches for 850 yards with the Jets last year, is known more for his speed and getting yards after making a catch. The challenge for the coaching staff is to figure out how he'll fit in an offense that's getting a facelift.
Ochocinco remains the No. 1 receiver. Chris Henry is a No. 3 receiver who spent the offseason working out in Cincinnati and has impressed the coaches with his newfound commitment to the game. The Bengals also have second-year receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, who were taken in the top three rounds last year.
Simpson and Caldwell were hampered by injuries as rookies and didn't get much playing time. Simpson caught only one pass for 2 yards. Caldwell had 11 catches for 78 yards.
Houshmandzadeh led the team or tied for the team lead in touchdowns each of the last three seasons. That's something Coles did for the past four seasons with the Jets.
Although their approaches are different, their results have been comparable, which should ease Coles' transition to a new offense.
"He brings a veteran presence, a guy who has credibility, who has performed at a high level in this league, has caught a lot of balls and knows how to play the game," offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said. "What that translates to is the story yet to be told. I don't know exactly where that's going to go, but I think those things bode well for him and us."
Quarterback Carson Palmer has been impressed with Coles' versatility. He thinks Coles can help the Bengals diversify an offense that ranked last in the league, though Palmer was sidelined by an elbow injury.
"Throughout his seven years here, (Houshmandzadeh) played one specific position," Palmer said. "Laveranues is learning three right now. So he's very versatile. He plays extremely tough. He loves to block. He loves to do the little things. He's complete.
"I'm trying to think of something he doesn't do well. There's nothing he doesn't do well. He's just an all-around very solid player, and he's going to be a big surprise for us this year. I think he's somebody we've been looking for for a while."
And, at least initially, Coles will get his wish for a secondary role. Palmer reiterated that Ochocinco remains his top target.
"He's going to play (the lead role) because he deserves to play there," Palmer said. "He's been one of the best receivers in this league for a long time. He's still able to play at that level, and still capable of making big plays and carrying the load offensively at the receiver spot, so he will."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press