Jeff Faine just got the Bengals playbook Wednesday and is going to attend his first team meeting Friday, but he says he's confident he can line up at center Monday night when the Bengals open the season against the Ravens in a 7 p.m. game in Baltimore Sept. 10.
"Welcome back, huh?" Faine said with a laugh Thursday as he talked about the challenges facing his 11-day whirlwind induction into offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's scheme to be topped off against last year's No. 3 defense in the NFL and Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
"It's 100 percent yes. I believe I can be," Faine said. "Obviously that is going to be coach's decision but I believe that I will be able to be ready mentally and physically.
"I wouldn't have it any other way from the standpoint of this is the NFL, and as I was telling Coach (Marvin) Lewis I haven't seen an easy schedule yet since I entered the NFL. I'm excited about the challenge. It's always a great environment to play on Monday Night and on the road in Baltimore. I'm excited and looking forward to it."
If the Bengals have to be without Kyle Cook (ankle) for what looks to be eight to 12 weeks, this is the only way they would want to do it, too. Faine, 31 is heading into his 10th season and his next start is going to be his 118th. He's on his fourth team, but he spent a year in the Bengals system in Tampa Bay when Gruden worked for his brother, Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.
"It's very similar to Jon Gruden's offense I had a few years ago," Faine said of 2008. "There have been a couple of tweaks here and there and terminology is different, so I should be wrapping my head around that again. I've already got the playbook. I've been putting time into it. I had to run home here to Florida to pick up some clothes at least for a couple of weeks."
After he signed what is believed to be a one-year deal Wednesday following his workout Tuesday, the Bengals gave Faine his playbook as he got on a plane back to his home in Orlando, Fla., while the Bengals bussed to Indianapolis. They'll hook up again Friday and Faine says while the Bengals are off Saturday and Sunday he'll be putting in significant time at Paul Brown Stadium studying.
"I've been training like something like this was going to happen," Faine said. "Anybody who has played the game can tell you football conditioning is a little different than training conditioning. I've always been a guy that stayed in pretty good shape. The games themselves have never gotten to me with my conditioning and my stamina.
"The biggest thing is the playbook. It's getting familiar with the guys up front. It's getting familiar with the guys behind me with Andy (Dalton) and Coach Gruden's play-calling, with Coach Alexander and his philosophy. It's getting used to all that and the playbook as well. Those are the things that are going to be the most challenging. The stamina portion or being in shape isn't an issue at all."
Faine said he held off on signing until now and turned down "a couple of teams with a couple of offers" because it wasn't what he called the right fit. But when Jay Gruden called him Monday and asked him to come up for a workout and check out the place, Faine liked what he saw: A familiar offense and talent.
"Pretty much (they had) the two major components," Faine said. "I wanted to win and I've been a part of teams that haven't won and it's a miserable situation to be around. I wanted a team that had success, a nucleus back and the offense that had a good quarterback, coordinator and depth at the skill positions."
Faine took note of what the Dalton Gang did last year and his meeting with the Brown family seemed to make an impression.
"I thought that they had a lot of good pieces last year and worked hard to get into the playoffs. For the core portion of the team it's young, which is good because they have a lot of good years ahead of them," Faine said. "There's a lot of good pieces, an experienced coaching staff and an ownership group that holds this team near and dear to its heart. It's the only thing they've got going, which is a great thing. I'm excited to be a part of this team, excited for this year and looking forward of taking advantage of every moment."