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Bengals shake up offensive line, move Whitworth to left tackle

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals are overhauling their offensive line, which was their biggest problem last season.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis moved guard Andrew Whitworth to left tackle for the start of the team's voluntary offseason workouts Tuesday. Top draft pick Andre Smith will line up at right tackle -- a position he has never played -- when he reaches a contract agreement.

Lewis said the moves should give Cincinnati stability at the tackle position.

"I feel that locks us down for a lot of years," said Lewis, who has two years left on his contract. "That's two very important, key spots. It's for as long as I'm here."

The Bengals' offensive line has undergone a major revamping in the last year.

The team released right tackle Willie Anderson just before the start of last season, when he declined a last-minute request to take a reduced salary as a backup. He was replaced by Stacy Andrews, who left after the end of the 2008 season to sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Bengals didn't offer a contract to center Eric Ghiaciuc, then released left tackle Levi Jones after making Smith the sixth overall pick in April's draft. Smith lined up at right tackle for the voluntary workout Tuesday.

"It felt (weird) at times, but I'm OK with it," Smith said. "It's just whatever helps the team. That's what I see it as."

Whitworth was a second-round draft pick in 2006 and has filled in at guard and at left tackle when Jones was injured during his first two seasons. Last year, Whitworth started the first 10 games at left guard before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

Whitworth played left tackle at LSU and prefers the position.

"It's something I've always wanted," Whitworth said. "I didn't know if it would happen, but I wanted to win, so wherever they asked me to play, I'd play. Now that I have a chance to be the left tackle, I want to devote myself to being the guy they can depend upon being that franchise guy."

The Bengals gave up 51 sacks last season, when quarterback Carson Palmer broke his nose, sprained his ankle and partially tore a ligament and tendon in his right elbow. Cincinnati finished the season 4-11-1 and had the lowest-ranked offense in the NFL.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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