Cincinnati Bengals  


Perhaps it's time for Smith to take his NFL opportunity seriously

Tony Tribble / Associated Press
Andre Smith managed to get in two full training camp practices with the Bengals before getting hurt.

With Andre Smith weighing in at 364 pounds shortly before signing his contract Sunday -- and having weight clauses subsequently added to his deal -- the Cincinnati Bengals' sixth overall pick continued to validate the red-flagged concerns about his commitment and focus to living up to his potential. That he suffered a stress fracture in his foot two days after starting practice after missing all of preseason to date only added to the criticism -- and folly.

Smith's course to the NFL has been one wreck after another, and he doesn't seem to realize that at some point he has to take the wheel and get on course.

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To recap: Smith was suspended from Alabama's Sugar Bowl game against Utah for undisclosed reasons, he skipped out of the draft combine unannounced, wasn't in optimum shape for his pro day, he slipping to the sixth overall draft pick when he was viewed as the top offensive line prospect in the draft, and he played musical agents.

One team that had him rated as the top offensive tackle early in the process was concerned enough that it moved him behind Jason Smith, who went to the Rams with the second overall pick, and Eugene Monroe, who was selected No. 8 by Jacksonville.

Things seemed to settle in for Smith when he went through offseason workouts in Cincinnati with little drama and positive reviews. Then, he couldn't get his deal done. The Bengals didn't want to pay him the slotted amount for pick No. 6 and he wanted to get paid the slotted figure. Smith eventually signed a four-year, $28 million contract that can max out at six over $50 million if all the stars align over the course of the deal.

So far, it's been an eclipse with Smith himself blocking out the stars, sun and moon because he couldn't stay in shape while he waited for his deal to get done.

He ballooned up to 360 pounds, 30 pounds heavier than the 330 he weighed on his pro day, a weight the Bengals deemed his ideal size to be effective. There was a lot of talk around the scouting combine that when Smith wasn't monitored, he would let himself go and for the other teams that listened to those whispers, they've been proven right.

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The sad part is Smith is about as kind of a kid as you will find. I've interviewed him three times and talked to him on other occasions and there isn't a mean or bad bone in his body. Yet, because he hasn't shown a lot of maturity, at least when it comes to doing what needs to be done to play a sport some dedicated people won't get to play again when rosters are cut to 53 on Saturday, he's painted himself as a comical/tragic figure.

You would hope now that Smith will learn from everything that's happened and tighten things up. He's already begun losing weight, but he will be limited with some things because of the stress fracture on his foot. The Bengals will use a two-week roster exemption to get Smith ready before activating him. When he's ready to be effective is another thing, but he is projected to start at right tackle at some point.

Now that he's officially on the clock, Smith better figure things out.

He's reinforced everything the critics projected his way except one: being the best offensive line prospect in the draft. That's really the only one that matters now and if he fulfills that prophecy, then this summer of misfortune will be forgotten. Either he's the next in a line of busts who is out of the league in four years, likely out of money because of bad decisions, or he finally realizes that he's got more to offer than doubt.



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