With a new player to the left of him and a new player to the right of him this spring, center Kyle Cook believes this year's offense needs the organized team activities (OTAs) more than last year's group that missed them because of the lockout.
Throw in some bowling and dinners with the offensive line and he says it's been a big help of six weeks.
"I don't think the lockout hurt as much as it could have because we had a core group of guys that were here," Cook said this week. "If this year there were a lockout, it would have been a little bit different because you would have had no time to jell with two guys."
Cook has quietly asserted himself as what his team believes is one of the more solid centers in the league with above-average intelligence and athleticism. He's trying to match Bob Johnson, the first player drafted in club history, as the only Bengal to center three postseason offensive lines. Cook, Blair Bush and Bruce Kozerski have each done it twice.
Cook thinks an intact offensive line eased last year's transition for a rookie coordinator, quarterback and wide receiver. Now with the guts of the line new, left guard Travelle Wharton and right guard Kevin Zeitler, Cook says they need time to find the coordination he had with left guard Nate Livings and right guard Bobbie Williams for the past three seasons.
"It's been different. The first week was different, but the progress between the first and second week has been huge," Cook said. "Not only is it new guys at the position but it's a new guy in the system, so they're learning as they go and we're getting used to each other.
"Two smart guys. Travelle is going to be playing his 100th game, so he's been around the league. Zeitler is obviously a first-rounder, a great player, so you've got all the confidence in the world he can do it. It's not like you're playing next to guys who have never done it before or don't have what it takes."
Cook doesn't like to compare styles, but he says Wharton not only has a different game than Livings but he's been used to having Ryan Kalil as his center in Carolina. Cook can break in Zeitler, a guy he says is very similar to Williams.
"Everybody has a little touch of something different," Cook said. "Me and Kalil have different styles, so we're getting used to that and this week has been good for that. There are a lot of similarities with Bobbie and Zeitler. Big, mauler guys you can talk to. Bobbie was a big, strong, physical right guard and that's kind of what Zeitler is. And Bobbie was a smart guy. The wily vet. He had the nickname. 'The Boss Man.' You've got to come up with something for Zeitler."
Cook went thumbs down on "The Computer." Zeitler got a lot of questions about his big-time rare score of 40 on the mental aptitude test known as "The Wonderlic," and Cook likes to kid him about it a little bit. Plus, he says, it's too early for a nickname.
"I got like a 28 or 30, so he's got me on that," Cook says of what is regarded as excellent. "But I'm still smarter than Zeitler. If Sally is 10 and her brother is twice her age, how old is her brother when she's 14? OK, 24. You can do those. Now play football."
Cook is joking, of course. But he says the OTAs have had a serious impact for the line on and off the field.
"He's been good. We're all gelling. It'll be good to get in (two more) weeks and I'm looking forward to putting on some pads and start hitting," Cook said. "This has been great for bonding. We've gone bowling and we've already eaten out a couple of times. We've done a lot of things together, which is good."
SLIM WHIT-MAN: Left tackle Andrew Whitworth continues to go on his health craze. Thanks mainly to a new diet, he has shed about 29 pounds during the offseason and says he's about 320, the lightest he's been since his sophomore season at LSU.
"I just wanted to feel lighter and feel better about myself," he says. "It's eating better and not as much, and workouts."
And did he mention golf? When the Bengals get done with their workouts at about 12:45 p.m., Whitworth eschews lunch and heads to one of his two courses, TPC or Hyde Park, to get in 18 holes after usually helping coordinate the playing groups.
Whitworth figures the Bengals have one of the teams in the NFL with the fewest golfers and they've got to be a rarity in that their best golfer is one of their biggest players at 6-7, 320.
After scalding Hyde Park with a 78 last week, Whitworth was a little tired Thursday and could only offer an 85. But he did unleash a 306-yard drive on the 18th.
"I really wanted that 77," he said of his jersey number. "But I took an (Anthony) Muñoz instead."
The course is another place to bond during OTAs. Whitworth's usual partners are quarterback Zac Robinson and guard Clint Boling, but some of the cornerbacks also like to play, so Leon Hall has made a few appearances in his foursomes and Terence Newman made his debut Wednesday.
As expected, there is heated competition and gamesmanship with a few dollars on the line and Whitworth's scorecard looks like an engineering blueprint by the time he's done figuring the individual and team scores. Whitworth took medal honors on Thursday with the big-hitting Robinson breaking off some rust with a un-Robby 88 and Boling coming out of it with a remarkable 91 after several scrambling pars.
"I like being a perfectionist at everything I try," Whitworth said. "I work on football in the morning and then try to get better at golf in the afternoon."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» When he signed with the Bengals back in March, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis said one of the reasons was because of the tradition running backs coach Jim Anderson has established. Anderson, heading into his 29th season as the NFL assistant with the longest tenure on any team, has had 13 backs with 100-yard games.
"That's a great accomplishment. It shows you what kind of coach he is," says Green-Ellis, who has four of his own.
With his fifth career 100-yarder, he'll join a Bengals list that looks like this since 1984:
Larry Kinnebrew (4 100-yard games); James Brooks (17); Stanley Wilson (1); Marc Logan (1); Ickey Woods (5); Harold Green (8); Ki-Jana Carter (1); Corey Dillon (28); Rudi Johnson (19); Kenny Watson (2); Cedric Benson (15); Bernard Scott (1); Larry Johnson (1).
» Word out of Kentucky is that former Bengals wide receiver Glenn Holt is going to help coach the June 12-14 mandatory minicamp. That means Holt, who works with the UK receivers and special teams, joins current wide receiver Brandon Tate, meaning that the club's current season record holder for punt return yards is going to be on the field with the man who had the second-best season in club history returning kickoffs. Holt had 1,432 yards returning kicks in 2007 that included a TD in Buffalo.