Bengals welcome first-round draft pick Smith back to practice

CINCINNATI -- No blocking, no knocking around. First-round draft pick Andre Smith wasn't allowed to bump into anybody during his first in-uniform practice with the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday, an indication that he's still a long way from playing regularly.

At least he got to wear shoulder pads and a helmet.

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The Bengals have received next-to-nothing from the offensive tackle, who missed most of training camp in a holdout and then broke his left foot during practice two days after signing. He spent the first six weeks of the season working out while the fracture healed.

The foot has progressed to the point where Smith was cleared to put on one of the Bengals' practice jerseys Wednesday -- a pristine white one that had yet to get a grass stain -- and participate in some of the drills but none of the plays.

"He was cleared today to practice with no contact," offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. "I don't know what that means. So he did drills like he did last week. Maybe he can do more tomorrow, I don't know."

When the Bengals selected Smith with the sixth overall pick, they envisioned him starting the season at right tackle. However, the contract impasse and the injury have threatened to wipe out most of his rookie season. Coach Marvin Lewis said this week that it's possible that Smith could be used during a Nov. 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Smith ultimately agreed to a four-year deal that includes $21 million guaranteed. The Bengals have an option after the 2010 season that would turn it into a six-year deal with $29.5 million guaranteed.

After missing so much practice, Smith has a lot to make up.

"I think he's shaping up," Alexander said. "It looked like he's getting ready to play a little bit. I haven't seen the guy do anything, literally, since May. ... So, it's not going to happen overnight.

"I'm not trying to stall on the kid. I'm just trying to be honest. It's not a game you can do without thousands of repetitions because stuff happens so fast and has to be so trained and engrained in you that those instincts have to be habit."

Even if Smith isn't ready to play tackle regularly, the Bengals could use him in short-yardage situations as an extra blocker. At Alabama, Smith excelled at pushing linemen back on running plays.

Smith broke into a big smile when asked how much it meant to be able to put on a Bengals uniform for practice.

"I haven't put on a uniform since I've been here, and it's been eight weeks," Smith said. "There's something wrong with that, I think.

"It's been tough at times, but it's going to pay off in the end -- that's how I look at it."

Smith was hoping to get in for a few plays Wednesday, but he wasn't allowed. He hasn't blocked anyone since the end of the season at Alabama.

"I'm looking forward to making contact with someone," he said.

Notes: Safety Roy Williams sat out practice with a forearm injury that sidelined him in Sunday's 28-17 loss to the Houston Texans. DL Domata Peko also missed practice with a sprained left knee, suffered on the first series against the Texans. Peko said a medical test found no tears to the knee ligaments, and it's unclear how long he'll be sidelined. Peko walked around with a wrap on his left leg Wednesday.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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