After the undrafted Ryan Hewitt finished his rookie year in 2014, the Bengals though they had the best fullback in the league. On Tuesday they put their thoughts on paper when they extended him three more years through the 2019 season, the earliest they could jump on an undrafted player.
Hewitt, who majored in science, technology, and society at Stanford and hopes one day to help make electric cars mainstream, must have been taking notes. One of the first things he saw in the NFL was the Bengals ink 2012 college free agent Vontaze Burfict the first chance they got before the 2014 season.
Hewitt advised his agent to approach the Bengals after last season about an extension and it turned out to be a $2.5 million decision, which is thought to be the yearly average of his new deal. For Hewitt, it brings him off the bottom of the pay scale in smashing fashion. For the Bengals, its bargain for a selfless player that can takes the bulk of his snaps at fullback but meets with the tight ends.
"He's a complete player. The definition of an H-Back," said running back Jeremy Hill, who has had his biggest runs behind the fierce blocking of Hewitt. "He's one of the leaders of the team. He doesn't complain. He just does his job. Those are the guys you need in the locker room. He's the embodiment of that."
The move is the latest in a batch of quick strikes at young players by the Bengals front office. In the spring they extended the deals of two players from the 2013 draft, second-round running back Giovani Bernard and third-round safety Shawn Williams. Hewitt and Williams are 25 and Bernard is 24.
It also reflects how well Hewitt fits into a Bengals culture that covets versatile, smart, and physical players.
"This team is very similar to the teams that I've always been on," Hewitt said before Tuesday's practice. "Which are blue-collar, down-hill teams. Smash-mouth in the running game and open it up in the passing game. I love being in Cincinnati. It's a great team. I love the coaching staff."
Quarterback Andy Dalton, who is also going to be looking at Hewitt at tight end as Pro Bowler Tyler Eifert rehabs from an ankle injury, liked the news.
"We extended him?" Dalton asked. "Anytime you can get a versatile guy that can do multiple things, it's great to do. He's a big part of what we do. A great teammate and a guy that works hard."
The 2014 draft now seems like an afterthought. If Hewitt had been taken in the sixth or seventh round, he probably would have been paid the minimum for at least three years and maybe four. He had choices after the draft from a handful of teams, but the Bengals made more sense.
"Them not having a true, established fullback and the way they played with multiple tight-end sets," Hewitt said of the factors in his decision to sign the first time. "We ran a pro-style offense (at Stanford); very similar to the (Bengals) offense … That gave me a huge step ahead. When I got here I was familiar with terms and blocking concepts and that has helped give me an advantage."
INJURIES HIT HOME: The injury bug that the Bengals avoided so long at the beginning of last season has attacked them with a vengence early in this training camp at cornerback
Citing multiple sources, ProFootballTalk.com reported Tuesday that first-round pick William Jackson III suffered a torn pectoral muscle in Monday's practice. Jackson, out of the University of Houston, had been lining up as the fifth or sixth cornerback but had been viewed as a potential big-time special teams contributor in his rookie season.
Jackson could very well be headed to season-ending injured reserve since a torn pectoral takes several months to heal.
After practice Tuesday head coach Marvin Lewis said the doctors would meet again to finalize a decision. This is the first year that teams don''t have to designate injured reserve-recall players before Opening Day. They can wait until week eight to make the call.
Lewis also said that No. 1 slot cornerback Darqueze Dennard suffered a sprained ankle and gave no timeline for a return. He could be back as soon as next week, although Lewis didn't rule out making another run at nine-year Bengal corner Leon Hall, still a free agent.
"We talk to players all the time," Lewis said.
But it looks like wide receiver Jake Kumerow's bid to win a spot on the roster has been temporarily derailed with a hamstring injury that may keep him out a few weeks. And after tight end Tyler Kroft's jammed knee got him carted off the field Tuesday, indications were that it wasn't serious.