Backup running back Cedric Peerman doesn't have a lot of NFL touches, but the Bengals like his vision when he does have the ball and since he's one of these guys that sees beyond the game he knows there may be a little bit more of the world to see this Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) when they play in Cleveland.
Peerman volunteered this offseason for a mission in Costa Rica with Athletes in Action and while the trip involved some clinics, the thrust of the week was more than football.
"The main focus was to share the faith and testimony," recalls Peerman, who does much the same as one of the leaders of the Bengals chapel services.
Peerman has a license to preach in his native Virginia and a certificate from Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons to wreak havoc in the kicking game. Now he has a permit from offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to get more work from scrimmage with speed back Bernard Scott (knee) out for the year and the Bengals not ready to add a back to the roster. The 5-10, 211-pound Peerman is the closest thing the Bengals have to what Scott's speed gave them on the perimeter.
"I think with more opportunities will prove he belongs," Gruden says. "He's got great vision. He just has had limited opportunities. It will be good for him to get some more opportunities to see if he can handle it and make some big plays for us."
Don't look for a 15-carry day or anything like that, but if Peerman can offer a few touches to change it up a bit from BenJarvus Green-Ellis and third-down back Brian Leonard, and supply some breathers as well as some of his straight-line sizzle, the Bengals would take it.
"It's all about being accountable and responsible," Peerman says. "If you can handle the smaller tasks you get more, especially a player at my position. I'm just trying to prove I can handle the smaller things."
Peerman has been called on to run the ball 10 times during his three seasons with the Bengals, but if he gets the call to do a little more against one of his old teams in Cleveland he'll be ready and that's why the Bengals have kept him around. They love his reliability.
The Bengals know he's a guy can that can produce off the bench. They certainly know it at Hyde Park Baptist Church, where he may be asked to read scripture or lead a prayer during one of his rare Sunday visits during the season.
In his 27 games Peerman has 23 special teams tackles and last year had 13 along with the big block on Brandon Tate's 33-yard punt return that cost him $20,000 in a fine but ignited the win against the Colts. The only man to win game balls for special teams in back-to-back weeks during Simmons's 10 seasons, Peerman has the biggest special teams play of this season with his 48-yard sprint around right end on fourth-and-one off a fake punt two weeks ago that got the Jacksonville victory off the ground.
"From an offensive perspective I don't have any problem with any of those backs in the game; I can call anything that I want," Gruden says. "It's not like I have a BenJarvus package, a Cedric Peerman package, a B-Scott package or whatever. I can just call the game the way it is and hopefully Cedric and Brian Leonard with some more opportunities will give us some different looks and BenJarvus the needed rest on the sideline when he needs it."
The little things are also the rock of Peerman's faith and that has helped him on and off the field during his NFL journey.
Once upon a time Peerman was a Cleveland Brown for the first seven weeks of his rookie season three years ago when he was mainly on the practice squad. Before that the Ravens drafted him in the sixth round and after that he finished out the season in Detroit with just two carries. He arrived in Cincinnati when the Lions released him about the time of the 2010 draft and it has been here where he has found a home on special teams.
He hasn't been used much from scrimmage since the 2010 regular-season finale when, as all trivia buffs know, he was quarterback Carson Palmer's last Bengals target on a fourth-and-goal incompletion with 10 seconds left in Baltimore. Five minutes before, Peerman had no gain on a fourth-and-one from the Ravens 26.
But he's got one catch for 11 yards and nine runs as a back for 39 yards (4.3 average) and there is some speed there. Peerman popped a 93-yarder against the Colts in the 2010 preseason finale and in 73 preseason carries for the Bengals has 339 yards for 4.6 yards per carry.
It is not lost on Peerman that there have been some productive NFL backs that came out of the special teams ranks.
"You see that definitely on our team and throughout league history," Peerman said. "You see guys playing special teams. I think about Terrell Davis, a great special teams player who just burst onto the scene. You just have to be ready because you never know when you are going to get your shot."
He certainly seems to have an advocate in Gruden, who knows 11 touches for a running back in three seasons isn't much to go on.
"A lot of these backs, you don't really know what you have until they get the reps in game situations," Gruden says. "The vision, the breaking tackles, carrying people for another yard or two, the power that they have. Do they cower up in the hole? How are they in pass protection if it's Ray Lewis up the middle? You just don't know until you are thrust into action."
As always, Peerman is ready for said action.
"Whenever I'm called upon to do a particular job," he says, " I like to do the best I can to be ready."
SLANTS AND SCREENS:
» That fake punt has apparently loosened up foes when it comes to the Bengals covering punts, where they are fourth in the NFL.
"We saw the base defense a few times – three times I think in the ballgame," head coach Marvin Lewis said of Sunday's Miami game. "It's something we'll see more often. As I said after the game in Jacksonville, it frees up our gunners a little bit more because we're not likely to see the vice as much, and it enables them to make more plays. Jeromy (Miles) and Andrew (Hawkins) were doing a good job coming through in those situations."
Kevin Huber's 11 punts inside the 20 are the fourth most in the NFL.
» Peerman is going to be getting triple duty in Cleveland this Sunday since the Bengals face another Pro Bowl test from Browns Pro Bowl returner Josh Cribbs. The Browns are third in the NFL in both punt and kick returns and against the Giants last Sunday Cribbs corked a 74-yarder on a kickoff. The Bengals are 22nd covering kicks.
» Isaac Curtis, regarded as the greatest Bengals wide receiver, had a reputation during his 11 seasons as a Cleveland killer. A.J. Green looks to be following the same path. In his three games against the Browns, Green has 11 catches for 209 yards for a 19-yard average and two TDs. But he'll have a tougher time than he did last month since cornerback Joe Haden returns from his four-game NFL suspension.
» Haden is back, but two of his best teammates on defense look to be questionable. Middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson left late in the first half with a concussion and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin left the locker room with his foot in a boot.