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Haloti Ngata first up for Cincinnati Bengals' Jeff Faine

Released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for financial and salary cap reasons in March, veteran center Jeff Faine spent the OTAs, minicamp, training camp and preseason as a street free agent.

Signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an injury replacement for Kyle Cook (ankle), Faine is the likely starter at center for the regular-season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. That means that after nearly six months on the shelf, Faine will debut against Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata on "Monday Night Football."

"Yeah, welcome back, huh?," Faine said of having to face Ngata, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I wouldn't have it any other way from the standpoint of this is the NFL and as I was telling Coach (Marvin) Lewis, I haven't seen an easy schedule yet since I entered the NFL.

"I'm excited about the challenge. It's always a great environment to play on Monday night and on the road in Baltimore. I'm excited and looking forward to it."

Unlike most veterans who missed the entire offseason, who usually sign "minimum salary benefit" contracts when joining a team in August, Faine is being paid as though he's expected to be a contributor this season.

According to a source with knowledge of Faine's contract, the 2003 first-round draft pick out of Notre Dame can earn up to $2.25 million this season. Faine received a $100,000 signing bonus and will make $1.4 million in base salary this season. Additionally, Faine can earn $500,000 in "per game active" roster bonuses ($31,250 per game) and $250,000 in playing-time incentives.

Follow Brian McIntyre on Twitter @brian_mcintyre.

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