Bengals claim Russell; Jeanty signs

Posted Apr 17, 2009

Russell had five rushing touchdowns for the Steelers last season. (Getty Images)

Updated: 5 p.m.

The man who scored the Steelers' first touchdown in their February Super Bowl victory is the newest Bengal and it could impact next week's draft.

Cincinnati picked running back Gary Russell off waivers Friday after he played in 15 games last season, including the postseason, and had five rushing touchdowns. The 5-11, 215-pound Russell was cut Thursday when the Steelers re-signed backup quarterback Charlie Batch.

Russell averaged 22.3 yards as Pittsburgh's kick returner, a spot the Bengals are seeking to fill with wide receiver Glenn Holt's departure in free agency.

Russell was thought to be emerging into a productive big back heading into his third season in Pittsburgh. If the Bengals had been seeking Cedric Benson's backup in the draft, they may now feel they don’t have to expend a pick there with Russell in the fold. At least maybe not a high one since his strength is viewed as a zone runner that would fit into some of what the Bengals do.

It also impacts the roster, particularly if the Bengals continue to keep just three running backs, along with a fullback. If Russell arrives as advertised, that would leave just one spot behind him and Benson. That puts former No. 1 pick Chris Perry, veteran Kenny Watson and a rookie that flashed late last year, James Johnson, in a free-for-all.

The Bengals pursued Russell as a college free agent after the 2006 draft before he signed with Pittsburgh. A Columbus, Ohio native who prepped in-state at Walnut Ridge High School, Russell got time in a University of Minnesota backfield that included NFL starters Laurence Maroney and Marion Barber.

Russell rushed for 1,130 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2005, but didn't play in 2006 after flunking out.

JEANTY SIGNS: Also Friday, the Bengals re-signed linebacker Rashad Jeanty, one of the team's restricted free agents. Jeanty was one of Cincinnati's most productive performers last season on defense and on special teams. He played in every game, with 15 starts at linebacker, and ranked fourth on the team in tackles (97). He also ranked second in special-teams tackles (15).

"Rashad sets the pace and the level of physicality for our linebacking group," said Jeff FitzGerald, Bengals linebackers coach. "He shows it every day. He's earned everything he's achieved in football, coming up through the Canadian League, and he still has that mindset."

Also last season, Jeanty tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (two) and added a special-teams fumble recovery and an onside kickoff recovery. He has played 38 games for Cincinnati over the past three seasons, with 31 starts. He was voted by teammates and the athletic training staff as the 2008 team winner of the Ed Block Courage Award, given annually to a player from each NFL team who "demonstrates commitment to the values of sportsmanship and courage."



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