Updated: 6:10 p.m.
In his second season, right tackle
But on Thursday, Jim Gould, who represents Smith along with Alvin Keels, said no decision on surgery has been made.
"It's early in the process," Gould said. "It's a possibility. We all have to talk. Alvin, the family, the doctors, and see what is the best course of action."
On Wednesday during a pass protection set, Smith suffered a stress fracture of the fifth metatarsal, the bone on the outside of the foot and next to the fourth metatarsal that he broke last season and had surgically repaired in January.
No matter what, it looks like his season is done. The procedure would shelve him for six to eight months. Head coach Marvin Lewis pronounced Smith out for Sunday's game with Dennis Roland getting the start. Even when he broke his foot 12 days before the opener on Sept. 1 and didn't have the surgery, Smith didn't return to practice until eight weeks later.
It’s another devastating moment for Smith, the sixth pick in the 2009 draft who is looking more and more like other injury-plagued first-round picks of recent Bengals vintage. Running back Chris Perry (2004) only had 177 carries in five seasons and linebacker David Pollack (2005) played in just 17 games before his career ended with a broken neck. Smith played in the last seven games of 2009 and in seven games this season, but the last three games marked his first full NFL outings in which he took the bulk or all of the snaps.
The first surgery involved a rehab of seven months to get him back on the field. A similar time frame would get him to the 2011 spring camps. Lewis said there wasn’t a lot of comfort level with that surgery and the foot was still giving Smith problems even before this new injury that occurred when his foot got stepped on.
“Now they have a chance to go back, if that’s the course of action, to fix the original and now fix this one,” said Lewis of the pros for immediate surgery. “You’re talking about the effectiveness of a guy and that injury and what he has to do in planting and putting pressure on it. We’ll see. We’ll give it a couple of days to see if it calms down.”
But Lewis, who has grimly become a foot expert, said the outside bone takes more pressure. One of the reasons Smith didn’t have to have surgery right away last year is because that bone is on the inside of the foot and naturally braced.
Complicating the physical concerns are the financial issues. The Bengals have to decide this offseason if they want to exercise a $5 million option in his deal that would make it a six-year contract or decline it and keep it at four years.
The fear is that what happened this past year will happen again. Smith got heavy enough while rehabbing (some reports had him as high as 375 pounds) that it delayed his return to the field. It is believed he is down to 345 pounds after some furious dedication in the cardio and aerobic room but he’ll be warned a repeat performance would jeopardize his career.
Lewis doesn’t think it will happen because Smith has matured. Lewis and Smith have had their moments. Lewis deactivated Smith for the third game in Carolina when he wasn’t happy with him. But asked what another injury like this does to Smith’s career, he said, “Nothing. It means it’s another bump in the road.”
What Smith needed the most - practice and game experience - has now been taken away again. After five penalties in the last three games and a mid-game benching for a snap Monday night, there have been both positives and challenges for what the Bengals feel is a player with potential to be an elite power tackle.
“He got some real taste of starting football and that was good experience for him and one I think he’ll be dedicated to because he knows he earned it,” Lewis said. “Nobody gave him the starting job this year. He earned it by doing the things I asked him to do and he didn’t get to play, or even to suit up, until he did those things. So that doesn’t change as he goes into the future.
“He knows the time frame of things. Whether it’s back this year or starting over next year, what he has to do. Last year he dealt with the foot in the offseason. I think he’ll handle it better. He seems more mature to handle whatever option is decided next week. To handle it and get it done correctly.”
» The plan was for quarterback
But he said he'll throw in Friday's practice, and be ready for the Colts on Sunday in Indianapolis.
"Not worried at all," Palmer said before Thursday's practice. "We played a late Monday game; it's just an extra day of recovery making sure it's ready for Sunday."
"Still sore. Hopefully we'll have him out here tomorrow," Lewis said. "He's being Carson. He's very confident. Still a little bit sore and hasn't stretched it out too bad yet and get ready to go tomorrow."
» Left tackle
"He'll throw into double coverage and get it in there," Hall said. "He's got a lot of faith in his arm."
Monday was rare in that Hall got beat on two deep balls, both by Steelers speedster Mike Wallace. True to his rep as a stand-up guy, Hall patiently broke them down.
On the 39-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter, he didn't know it was a gadget pass from wide receiver Antwan Randle El until after the play. "I guessed on the wrong route," he said, praising the Steelers for making a lot of their plays look the same. And on the 35-yard bomb to Wallace that set up another touchdown he said he was fried right away when "I made a false step up on the line."
» Even though
“Guys are tired. It was a late game. I don’t think I got home until 1 (a.m.) and then come right back around with a full practice,” Benson said before Wednesday’s workout. "Got to find something to get you going today.”
Head coach Marvin Lewis helped out by cutting the usual two-hour practice by about a half-hour. But by then, Benson had already been into weekly routine. He lifts on Tuesdays, the off day.
“Always,” said Benson when asked if he hit the weight room. “I ended up getting up early. I was down here by 11 o’clock yesterday. Didn’t really sleep. I feel good. Little sore. A little odds and ends here, but for the most part, it could definitely be worse. I feel great.”