Bengals outside linebacker Vincent Rey won't be caught flat-footed when Peyton Manning shows up at Paul Brown Stadium Nov. 4 with the Broncos.
Rey, a second-year special-teamer, got the sneak preview last month when he was working out at his alma mater of Duke and was part of the worst-kept secret since Area 51. Rey's college coach, David Cutcliffe, hosted Manning's tryouts and practices as he navigated free agency and that meant Rey got to go against Manning and his old tight end Dallas Clark.
"My college coach was Peyton's college coach and it was a great experience," Rey said this week. "He's a good guy and he's all business. He looked pretty good to me. I mean, he looked great. He can really throw it. It looked like he wasn't even hurt."
How well was Manning sifting it? At one point Manning kidded Rey and the other defenders, "It's not RVAs (routes against air), you can make a play."
Rey is penciled in as the WILL backup behind Thomas Howard at the moment and the Bengals see him primarily as a special-teamer, where he performed well in his first full season last year with nine tackles, fifth on the team. But he said the experience covering Clark working with Manning gave him some confidence.
"When you see yourself going against the very best, I think that helps you mentally," Rey said. "He got me sometimes and sometimes I got him."
*COLLINSWORTH CATCH: *One of the great draft-day steals in Bengals history sees another wide receiver lurking that could be another robbery for the hometown team.
"Let me tell you something," Cris Collinsworth says of Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, "you put him opposite A.J. (Green), what are you going to do? You're going to have to play seven against the run. You're not playing one of those guys without safety help. I wouldn't."
It was Green that smashed all of Collinsworth's 30-year-old rookie club records last year and Collinsworth, the man that went from winning jump balls to Emmys and resides at NBC, believes his man needs some help on the other side. Enough that he thinks the Bengals should consider the bottom two first-round receivers, Hill and Baylor's Kendall Wright, as well the first two, Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
Not everyone is sold on the 6-4, 206-pound Hill. He burst into the first round with a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but some don't view him as close to NFL ready as former Tech receivers Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. They see him as a major-league project; in large part because Tech runs a primitive offense nowhere near the NFL models.
As usual, Collinsworth disputes convention.
"What he doesn't do well, you can fix," Collinsworth says. "He's got to come off the ball harder for one thing. If he came off the line at the combine running the way he came off the ball, he would have run a 4.7. The guy that ran the 40, if he came off the ball like that, he'd give people heart attacks. They don't run routes at Georgia Tech. You've got to teach him and he may be a non-factor for a year, but he's a guy that at 6-4 and runs a 4.3 and he can catch well enough. He's had some really bad drops, but he makes some plays, too."
As every Cincinnati school kid should know, Collinsworth, a three-time Pro Bowler who helped the Bengals to two Super Bowls and retired as the club's all-time receiver, was the second wide receiver the Bengals drafted in 1981. The ancient tale goes that the Bengals were going to take him in the first round, but general manager Paul Brown took a second look at his combine picture in his skivvies, pronounced Collinsworth too skinny, and took Kansas wide receiver David Verser instead.
Collinsworth never confirmed the story with Brown. He heard it from offensive coordinator Lindy Infante.
"I think it's a rogue story, but it's a good one," says Collinsworth, who admits he wasn't taking the process very seriously. "I was screwing around. We had these picture days and I came in with a pair of offensive linemen quadruple X shorts. 'This is BS.' I knew it was like a meat market in there, so I was like, 'They'll appreciate this.' They appreciated me right into the second round."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» A key player in the first round? It looks like it's going to be Mississippi State defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. It is a six-player draft (Luck, Griffin, Kalil, Richardson, Claiborne, Blackmon) with the 6-4, 295-pound Cox emerging as big-time prospect because of his ability to penetrate on the pass rush in the middle. At. Nos. 7-9, the Jags, Dolphins and Panthers all seem interested. The teams that don't get him may try to trade out of there.
» Bengals defensive tackle Domata Peko saw tape of new defensive end Jamaal Anderson's 47-yard fumble return last year for a touchdown against the Steelers while playing for the Colts and it conjured up memories of Bengals end Carlos Dunlap's 35-yard fumble for a touchdown return against those Colts.
"He's (built) like Carlos and (Robert Geathers)," Peko says. "Long, lean, and a real good athlete. He fits us."
» Reminded of the return against the Steelers, Anderson smiled and said, "Maybe that's why I'm here."
He was told if he did it against the Steelers this year, "You'll be a civic hero."
» One NFL personnel guru not in the Bengals division talking about Peko: "A stout, point of attack run defender who has been durable. For a 320-pounder, he plays the game on his feet and is very active inside."