Ben Utecht (AP photo)
Updated: 8/6/09, 10:50 a.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - After a frightening dozen motionless minutes face down on the field in Wednesday night's practice, Bengals tight end Ben Utecht was diagnosed with a concussion and taken to Georgetown Community Hospital via ambulance. His head was taped to a board, but club spokesman Jack Brennan said he was fully conscious and had sensation and movement in his upper and lower extremities as he left the field.
Thursday morning all studies on Utecht at Georgetown Community Hospital came back normal. There is no structural damage to his spine. Club officials have set up an appointment for him in Cincinnati with a spine specialist and concussion specialist for further review of his situation, and after being released from the hospital Thursday morning Utecht is already on his way to Cincinnati to meet with the specialists.
The Bengals now might end up signing two more tight ends. Internet reports Thursday indicate the Bengals have re-signed tight end Matt Sherry, their sixth-round draft pick from 2008 who was recently waived on June 20.
After examining Utecht on the field, club doctor Jeff Craig and trainer Paul Sparling determined to tape Utecht's head to a board placed on the stretcher for precautionary reasons.
Utecht underwent tests at the hospital to see if there are any other problems. He did have a bit of a concussion history in Indianapolis before he signed a three-year, $9 million deal with the Bengals before last season.
His agent, Chris Murray, said Wednesday night he was under the impression Utecht had not suffered damage beyond the concussion.
Utecht went down in a heap following a play in a half-line blocking drill during live action in a practice in full pads. Pictures by Cincinnati Enquirer photographer Jeff Swinger showed Utecht in a head-to-head engagement with linebacker Darryl Blackstock before he dropped.
As the team moved on to different parts of the field, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who had Utecht sing at his wedding back in March, knelt to pray with his head down and a hand on one of Utecht's legs.
A few minutes later Chad Ochocinco jogged over from the wide receiver drill and did the same thing.
"He was as unconscious as unconscious gets for a minute there," Whitworth said. "I put my hands on him, prayed on him, and wished him to get well soon. I think he's doing fine now.
"It's always scary. We're family. We're brothers out here. Anytime one of your teammates gets hurt like that, it rocks everybody."
It certainly has rocked the Bengals roster. Utecht's injury capped an unbelievable day for the tight ends Wednesday in which starter Reggie Kelly (Achilles) was put on season-ending injured reserve and Daniel Coats watched the night practice after an ankle sprain made him day-to-day.
The Bengals were talking about signing another tight end even before they went out to practice Wednesday night with former Packer and Jet Bubba Franks the most well known. Head coach Marvin Lewis acknowledged that Franks "was a very, very good player for a long period of time." He's also 31 and has played in just eight games in each of the last two seasons.
But the Bengals have to do something. They were scheduled to go live on goal-line and in short yardage, but now that they have to be careful with their two remaining tight ends (rookies Chase Coffman and Darius Hill), they had to ditch both drills after Utecht got hurt.
"What we have to be careful with now is that we don't wear down the two guys we have," said offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski. "Because we've been working so many two and three tight end sets, now we're going to have to back away from that. We're obviously going to have to make some adjustments."
Besides Franks, there are other double-digit veterans out there like former Steelers Mark Bruener and Jerame Tuman. But Bruener has played in just nine games the past two seasons combined. As expected so late into signings, there's not much out there. There is the age issue (long-time Raven Daniel Wilcox, 32, is also out there) and the Bengals usually avoid signing older players.
But, there aren't many young ones.
The Bengals could go out and sign their sixth-round pick from '08, Matt Sherry, a guy they cut back in June. Or there is Martrez Milner, a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in 2007 who didn't play in the NFL last year. Or George Wrightster, 28, a fourth-round pick of the Jaguars who played in just five games last year.
Head coach Marvin Lewis left open the option of signing maybe more than one.
"We'll look to bring in some people," he said. "You may take a look at guys like that physically, older guys, what they can do in a workout situation. I think you'd want to research some of that."