PHOENIX, ARIZ. — Bengals wide receiver Mohamed Sanu is expected to be 100 percent when he arrives next month at the Bengals offseason workouts as he comes back from the broken foot that wiped him out of the last month of his season. But he had a great league meeting.
Head coach Marvin Lewis said Sanu is ahead of the club's all-time leading receiver Chad Johnson after their rookie seasons while Sanu's college coach and current Tampa Bay head man Greg Schiano raved about his versatility. Along with the presence of Marvin Jones, this is Exhibit A why the Bengals aren't chasing a veteran receiver or pressed to take one early in the draft.
Schiano chuckled when asked how he made Sanu a wide receiver at Rutgers.
"Purely need, need-based; the genius that I was," he said of that freshman spring. "The first 13 practices, no, the first 12 practices, Mohamed played safety and after about a practice and a half he ascended to be the starting safety. As I watched our spring practice, we just didn't have any playmakers I thought could win games. So I said let's just try putting a few defensive players over there and it was about 12 minutes into practice and I said, 'Mo's staying.' "
Schiano also had a decision there, too. But he opted to put Sanu at receiver for most of his career.
"He could have been a quarterback," Schiano said. "And he pretty much was for the 2010 season. He served as a Wildcat-type quarterback. The guy can throw the ball 80 yards in the air. (His rookie) success didn't surprise me. As good a player and athlete as he is, he's as good a person. I was really disappointed for him when he got injured because you could see his career was just getting ready to take off."
Lewis says it already has, claiming Sanu could be the team's starting free safety.
"That's not an exaggeration," Schiano said.
This is one guy that needed less than 15 minutes to impress at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"He has such a great understanding of the game. The guy is really such a mature player for a guy his age. This is a guy I remember meeting with at the Combine and I can see why everyone was so drawn to him throughout the process," Lewis said. "He's a complete player. We're playing that last preseason game in Indianapolis and Marvin (Jones) is returning punts and gets injured. We put Mo back there and it was like he had been doing it for us all through training camp. It's not too big for him. That's the exciting part for having a guy like that. We've got a real weapon. We were so fortunate to be able to draft him where we did because he's got ability level above that. We felt like Mo was a better game player than practice player."
TEA LEAVES: All you can do when it comes to Cincinnati's pursuit of free agents is read the tea leaves:
A source close to the Adam Jones negotiations says both sides are working hard to strike a deal that would wrap up one of Cincinnati's top three cornerbacks from last season, keeping in line with the hope the Bengals had that they would re-sign three defensive regulars before the week is out. They re-upped middle linebacker Rey Maualuga on Monday.
Terence Newman, one of the Bengals starting cornerbacks, is the third and he tweeted this week that he's returning to Ignition Sports in suburban Cincinnati to train next week. He also tweeted he's deciding between the Bengals and Raiders at the end of this week and that may or may not be a good sign.
On Wednesday here at the NFL meetings, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talked up wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. as if he were going to be more than a return man in Carolina. The Bengals are also interested in Ginn, but they've also got four receivers ahead of him. Plus, Brandon Tate, who performed the role last year, is also on the team's radar along with Ginn.
And from what could be deduced this week at the Arizona Biltmore, the Andre Smith negotiations are still shrouded in mystery. Although the Bengals and agent Ben Dogra were on site, it didn't appear that they met. If they did, it wasn't publicly and Dogra was fairly public when he was seen at various times talking with the Lions and Patriots.