Andre Smith not only looked like a new man when he showed up at Paul Brown Stadium on Tuesday, he sounded like one, too.
At 338 pounds, his lowest as a Bengal, Smith vowed to be 335 pounds when he reports to Georgetown College on Friday. While he's 95 percent sure a CT scan is going to clear his surgically-repaired broken foot, the Bengals are taking it more cautiously and crossing their fingers that they can get him on the field at right tackle some time soon.
Any resemblance to the YouTube video of his topless 40-yard dash of two years ago would be photoshopped.
After a rookie holdout two years ago and an extended rehab last year from his first foot surgery, Smith has never donned the helmet and shoulder pads at Georgetown College. As the Bengals anxiously wait, he can't wait.
"You've got to hand it to Andre," said Ray "Rock" Oliver. "If you're going to criticize a guy for not doing it, you have to praise him when he does do it, too. I'm proud of the guy. He's worked hard at it."
With PBS closed to players during the 136-day lockout and Smith's inability to continue strength coach Chip Morton's program, concern about Smith's weight were raised to supersonic levels. How close would Smith hit to Joey Votto's National League MVP on-base percentage?
But it turned to be closer to Drew Stubbs' line and he's running, too. Maybe not as fast but striding to a near run has become part of Smith's two-a-day workouts in his hometown of Birmingham, Ala.
That's really where the comeback is rooted. And it's a bit of a fish story.
"I have a better relationship with Jesus and my family, putting things in order. It makes it a lot easier," Smith said.
Oliver, Morton's former assistant who worked with Smith that rookie season to shed weight, ended up just an hour down the road as the head of the University of Kentucky weight room. It was a good break for Smith. The few times he wasn't in Birmingham, he was able to work with Oliver while the Wildcats were in spring ball.
"We pretty much mirrored what he had been doing with Chip," Oliver said. "A lot of work with the hands. Technique drills. He sat in on our offensive line meetings and I know that was great for our guys. Andre knows the game and studies it."
But Oliver says the key was in the recipes of his mother. On and off the plate.
"She's a very strong, good lady and I think the way she handled his diet and other things was really what helped him," Oliver said. "She's an ordained minister and I've even talked to her about a few things. But the biggest thing is that Andre figured it out, saw what he had to do and did it."
Baked and grilled fish and rice, Smith says. His favorite dishes are tilapia and mahi mahi tuna (medium rare), and his* *appearance had a lot of smiles popping up around the PBS pond as one of the best catches in what may have been the team's harshest offseason ever.
"He'll be a great help to you guys if he can get out there," Oliver said. "I've seen him do some amazingly strong things, especially in the running game."
Smith already got the once-over from head coach Marvin Lewis, an exam that not always has gone well.
"He smiled. He was happy for me," Smith said. "Hopefully those things are behind me and I don't have to worry about them anymore."
You might say some weight has been lifted off his shoulders.