Big buzz

Posted: 6:50 p.m.



Yes, even NFL players can buzz at practice and those who were there say Sam Adams brought the buzz worthy of three Pro Bowls in his first official practice as a Bengal Friday after 26 days on the sidelines.

"Here he is, he went against him," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander of rookie backup guard Nate Livings as they walked out of the closed practice.

Apparently the kids had a heck of a time trying to deal with Adams, working with the first team defense against the backup offense as he reportedly drove one of them into the backfield on one snap to a sound track of shrieks.

"Does that surprise you?" asked defensive line coach Jay Hayes. "He's been to the Pro Bowl how many times and he's going against some rookie. I expect him to do that."

And those are the expectations worthy of the buzz. When Adams played regularly from 2000-2004, his defenses finished at least in the top eight of run defense and went to two Super Bowls.

"He had a lot of good players around him on those Baltimore and Oakland teams and definitely in Buffalo," said John Thornton before Friday's practice, the right tackle Adams is expected to line up next to on the left side Monday night in the starting lineup. "And he's going to help us. That's why they brought him in."

OK, OK. All the fans want to know is if he's in shape and if he's lost enough weight to play. OK, OK. Word is there was a certain buzz about his ability to fire off the ball at the snap at, what, 360 some odd pounds.

"A powerful, powerful man who is extremely quick," said Hayes, who said Adams made it through practice just fine.

Strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver, who have spent those 26 days getting Adams into shape, saluted him as they walked off the field.

"Good, good," said Morton before practice. "He seems happy and ready to go."

But you should know this, too:

"He's probably the smartest football player I've ever been around," said Hayes, who played with Reggie White and has coached in college and pros for a generation. "To be as big as he is, and to be able to still play and do some of the things he can do, he has to have a passion for it, and he has a passion for playing. He definitely has the intellect."

OK, OK. Adams has an independent streak longer than Brett Favre's consecutive games streak. But you should know this, too. When he got off the bus in Buffalo last week, it took him a half hour to get to the Bengals locker room because it was across the hall from where he dressed the past three seasons and everyone from former coaches and teammates and the security guards greeted him.

Before the team left Paul Brown Stadium for that trip, he treated his new mates to trays of take-out food he ordered to the locker room.

"Sam's well-liked, he's a people person," Thornton said. "He knows how to relate to people. He's an intelligent guy. He's not what people think - just a guy who gets by on his size. He knows the game and that helps him a lot."

OK, OK. At times Adams, not available after Friday's practice, can be a Churchillian riddle: A No. 95 wrapped in the shoulder pads of mystery and an enigma inside a helmet.

But you should know this, too.



"From the very first time I met Sam, Sam has his own ideas. He's very, very strong-willed," said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, a man Adams swears by since playing in his record-breaking defense in Baltimore. "I think that makes him a very good player. He knows how to do things the way you ask him to do it, and yet he has the determination to do things to try and defy people ... defy perception, I guess would be the word.

"He has always been that way. You like that part of him. He's very intelligent on the field and off the field. On the field he helps you in those ways. He helps guys understand the game plan. He helps the guys understand the other side of the football and things that are occurring within the scope of the game. Those are things that I'm looking forward to having on our football team."

Thornton has watched film with him and has noted how Adams knows what year the tape is from because of which players are playing for what team and what schools they attended.

"He studies guys and how they play and not a lot of guys do that," Thornton said.

Thornton has been around the block in eight years. He has played in the Super Bowl and been to the playoffs with two different franchises, and yet he has never played next to a tackle as good as Adams.

"I haven't played with anybody as big, or who went to a Pro Bowl. Some ends did," said the 290-pound Thornton, but he knows that's not an automatic big year for him.

Formations, he says, dictate that he'll probably be the guy that gets double-teamed more than Adams and "hopefully I can free it up for him."

"He can't fight my battles for me. That's a misconception," Thornton said. "I still have to do my thing. I'll still be the nose guard. We play left and right and most teams put the tight end on the left side of our defense. I won't get doubled because I'm a big guy, but it will be just by formation.

"I don't think people double anymore like that. It's mainly plays and formations. I'm sure teams, if he's killing somebody, will put somebody on him. I mean, you know he's going to help us."

How big is Adams?

Big enough that at age 33, he can still make a field of pros buzz.

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