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Whitworth welcomes Winston

Posted Dec 2, 2014

Eric Winston, 31, a veteran of 124 games who started every game for the previous seven seasons at right tackle with three different clubs, is the latest option in the bid to replace the injured Andre Smith. Andrew Whitworth has known him since high school and thinks he'll pick up things quickly.

The newest Bengal, Eric Winston, is also going to wear 73 in Cincinnati.

The Bengals are enough into the playoff picture to think they’ve got a chance to do some damage deep into the postseason, so they’ve signed the president of the NFL Players Association to help their situation at right tackle.

Eric Winston, 31, a nine-year veteran of 124 games who started every game for the previous seven seasons at right tackle with three different clubs, is the latest option in the bid to replace the injured Andre Smith. After Marshall Newhouse took the bulk of the snaps and left guard Clint Boling took the other 19 in Sunday’s 14-13 victory in Tampa, offensive coordinator Hue Jackson said they were still looking for the best mix of five guys.

If it does anything, the 6-7, 302-pound Winston gives the Bengals more depth at a spot that had become thin with experience. It’s a deal to get the Bengals through a tough December hunched with big defenses and who knows what in the postseason. Best known for his seven seasons in Houston as one of the league's top tackles, Winston went to the Chiefs in 2012 and last year again started all 16 games at right tackle for Arizona. Winston, cut after the preseason finale in Seattle this year, is probably inactive for Sunday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium against the Steelers (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Channel 12), but probably suited for next week’s game in Cleveland and it remains to be seen how much he’ll play.

Winston has had tryouts around the league, but nothing held firm until after the Bengals worked him out Tuesday and they liked the way he moved around.

Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth has known Winston since high school and thinks he can be ready quickly.

“He’s a good guy to pick up at this time of year. He’s played a ton of football,” Whitworth said. “He’s a guy I know fits in with us as far as the effort and the attitude he plays the game with. He’s a physical guy, he played in the Houston Texans’ zone scheme stuff, he’s a finisher type guy. Whether he’s in there as a safety net or having to play for you, he’s got a lot of experience.”

Winston played on Cedric Benson’s Midland, Texas high school team that lost to Whitworth’s West Monroe High School team in Louisiana. Whitworth hosted him for his visit to LSU before Winston opted for the University of Miami and they were roommates at the 2006 NFL scouting combine. Before Whitworth chose not to run for re-election this year as the Bengals NFLPA rep, they were involved together in the union.

“He’s a very educated guy. He’s extremely smart, he’s extremely bright,” Whitworth said. “I think that’s a big reason he was selected to be the president. So many guys were impressed by his intelligence and how much he really studies. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a really quick study and a guy that can be prepared faster than people may think.”

Before charting down his play last season with the Cardinals to No. 69, profootballfocus.com had him rated as the 26th best tackle in 2012, eighth in 2011, and 12th in 2010.

“We’re committed to making the run,” Whitworth said. “Anytime you’re in a situation where you lose your starting right tackle who has been a good football player for you and you have a new guy in Marshall who has not really been here, you know you’re a little thin in the sense that if something happened to Marshall or something happened to one of our guards and Clint had to stay at guard. It’s important to have a guy who played a lot of football and it wouldn’t be too big for him to hop in a game and have to play…then he’s about as good as you could have.”

Apparently bygones are bygones. When head coach Marvin Lewis raised eyebrows back in October about how concussions are viewed now as opposed to several years ago, Winston fired out a “sarcasm,’ tweet about the NFL’s lack of sensitivity.

When asked about such a high-profile union official coming to work for the Bengals, Whitworth didn’t see any conflicts.

“Eric is a guy that’s extremely impressive. He’s going take the league to a great place,” Whitworth said. “That’s his ultimate goal. To continue to see guys develop and see guys excel on the field and off it. Eric wants the best for players and everybody wants that.”

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