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Fullback plunge

Chris Pressley

Even though he kept using it Thursday, Chris Pressley doesn't like the word "blessing."

"Grateful is more like it; I'm grateful," he said.

And since Pressley is a man of his word, that two-year deal he's expected to sign Monday as the Bengals fullback means a lot more than the undisclosed contract's bottom line. But like a true fullback who works in the unvarnished corners of the game, he doesn't want to make a lot of hoopla about it.

"We've come full circle, but this isn't the end all," Pressley said. "I'm not going to let it overwhelm me. I'm grateful to the Bengals and the Brown (family) for giving me a chance to not only make a footprint in the NFL, but in the community."

This has been a big week of what Pressley calls his "long journey." His family is also celebrating his mother's driver's license, an equally proud moment because as her son says, "She's had a lot going on."

Like trying to keep her family afloat. The state of Florida has provided evidence that she has. Complete with photo.

It wasn't very long ago, during Chris's freshman year at Woodbury High School in New Jersey to be precise, his family was evicted. With his mother, brother and sister, he weaved to a shelter and then a cramped motel room before Jackie Pressley sent the kids to family and friends so they were within two to three miles of each other while she worked to get them back on their feet.   

"It isn't just me; it's all the people that have helped me get here," Pressley said. "My mom. My family. The Brown (family). Coach (Marvin) Lewis. My teammates. A month ago, I didn't know what was going to happen. I really had no idea this was going to happen."

As a player heading into his fourth NFL season, Pressley surfaced this year as a restricted free agent. Unless you're a Pro Bowler like Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace, usually that means a one-year qualifying offer with no guarantees.

But Pressley is a player valued for his toughness and reliability and with potential changes at running back the Bengals felt it would be nice to have some stability in front of them. In exchange, an unspecified bonus was nice for Pressley. Both sides get their stability.

"The only bonus I ever got before this," Pressley said, "is when the Bengals signed me out of college. It was 1,200 bucks. It covered my last month's rent."

Pressley doesn't want to say how much but, yes, this is the most money he's ever received at one sitting. Not every player is Peyton Manning. Not every position is quarterback. If fullbacks are lucky in this day and age, they play a third of the snaps. Pressley's 282 snaps last season were 14th among NFL fullbacks, according to He didn't carry the ball once.

"They could have said, 'We won't give you an offer and we'll make you come in and win the job in training camp again,' " Pressley said. "They could have said, 'We'll go get a younger, fresher guy that's like Pressley.' But they're showing confidence in me. It's a nice feeling as you go into training camp."

Training camp has always been an adventure for Pressley ever since he arrived as a free agent out of Wisconsin in 2009. He got cut after that preseason, went on the practice squad and ended up playing seven games in Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers signed him off the squad.

Then the Bucs cut Pressley after he played three games in 2010 and he ended up back in Cincinnati at the end of the season. When Jay Gruden arrived as the Bengals offensive coordinator last season, Pressley's role as a traditional fullback gained more of an appreciation. He may have only played 26 percent of the snaps, but he played in every game except one for a playoff offense and helped out a top 12 special teams unit.

At 5-11, 256 pounds, Pressley may not have the best pair of hands or the most athleticism for an ideal West Coast fullback. But he's also an example of how the Bengals want free agency to go when it starts Tuesday at 4 p.m. They want to keep their own players they feel have the right approach to the game and to the team.

It may be a lower-rung deal to everyone else but both sides.

"The Bengals get criticized," Pressley said, "but if you show them you'll play hard and go out and earn it, they'll reward you. They've changed my life."

Truth be told, Pressley would be OK without football. You're talking about a guy that took out of Wisconsin a B.A. in business and marketing and a master's in communications and marketing. Before the Bengals came calling with a free-agent deal three years ago, Impact Sports, a branch of Nike apparel, offered Pressley a regional manager job in the South Jersey-Philadelphia area and Phillip Morris offered a sales manager job in Chicago.

But NFL money is NFL money and Pressley has been cautious. Both his grandfather and mother, who have helped raise his son, eight-year-old Chris Jr., now live near them in Tampa.

"I've saved a lot of it. I'm not frugal, but I'm helping my family," he said.

He always did. The bottom line is just different. While he was going through high school getting all As, Pressley worked everywhere. You name it. And he could on Thursday.

Wendy's. K of C. Taco Bell. Rita's Water Ice, where he chipped through the blocks of ice to make Italian ice and frozen custards. He painted a gym. He moved furniture for 50 bucks a day.

"J and J Moving," he recalled. "Basically, I'd work at anything that wasn't selling drugs. I never really thought about (future paychecks) back then. In life, you really can't foresee anything. The big things for me were taking care of my son."

The lowest point, he was asked about back then?

"I don't know about that," said. "There were a lot of low points."

Pressley couldn't talk Thursday until after his workout. Give me three hours, he said.

"I want to catch as many balls as I can," he said when he could talk. "I want to work on my endurance coming into camp. I already eat pretty well. I'm just looking to become a better player, a better person. I'm looking for more hip explosion. I'm about five or six weeks out from shoulder surgery. It's restricted my lifting, but I've been working on the legs. I should be ready to go once we get back there (in April)."

Pressley took time to think about his mother his week. How she finally had her driver's license. But he didn't want to make it a big deal. Fullbacks usually don't.

"I'm taking care of business," he said.

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