Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is one of the four Bengals left from wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh's run in Cincinnati and he's happy to see him coaching here for the next two weeks for a variety of reasons.
One, he thought he might be able to get some money back. When Whitworth got ejected in Houshmandzadeh's last year here in a 2008 fight with Jacksonville defensive tackle John Henderson, Whitworth thought he may have had a hand in it. It will be recalled that when Henderson tried to gouge out Whitworth's eyes, Whitworth threw him around like a tackling dummy, got ejected, and saluted a standing ovation from the Paul Brown Stadium crowed in what some has said was one of the embryonic moments setting up the 2009 AFC North sweep.
"My best memory of T.J. Housh is… he was the guy during that TV timeout that was talking smack to (Henderson) and got him mad," Whitworth said with a smile after Tuesday's practice. "(Houshmandzadeh) went and caught a third-down catch for a first down and Big John went after me. I don't know how that led to me dragging Big John 30 yards across the field, still it's his fought technically."
But Whitworth loves how Houshmandzadeh played and he hopes some of that fiery confidence rubs off on an offense that has had everything but an attitude.
Whitworth remembers when there would be an argument or a fight bubbling every day with Houshmandzadeh asserting the confident aggressiveness that helped turn a seventh-rounder into a Pro Bowler.
"That kind of confidence and attitude is something that would be good for our offense," Whitworth said. "We need some of what these young kids call swagger. We need some of that ability to have a confidence in us no matter who you are or where you're from or how good a team we're playing…we're really good. And we're going to bring it. We need a little bit of that attitude."
In an offseason offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is talking about grit, overcoming adversity and adapting during games, Whitworth thinks Houshmandzadeh is a living, breathing example.
"T.J. Houshmandzadeh is a great example of a guy who might not be the most skilled guy on the field,' Whitworth said. "But he turned those skills into the biggest potential and achieved a lot in football…It's a mindset. It's hard to teach it. T.J. is a great example."
QUEZ ADAPTING: Darqueze Dennard, the Bengals' 2014 first-round draft pick, has been looking like it lately this spring. And again on Tuesday with an interception in one-on-ones and another interception in team drills. In 11-on-11 cornerbacks coach Vance Joseph alerted him before the snap on wide receiver Brandon Tate's pattern down the middle and Dennard got on top of the route and stayed put. When Dennard slowed down Tate and quarterback Andy Dalton overthrew it, Dennard circled back to make the interception.
Dennard says the mind games are allowing him to play more like he did at Michigan State for one of the nation's top defenses after adjusting to the pro game last season.
"I understand the total defense," said Dennard of the difference between last spring and this one. "I wasn't using my help as much as I should. Now I underdstand what to give up. What the strengths of the defense are, what is it supposed to do, what is it trying to do? I'm more understanding of the game."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Whitworth, as befitting an established veteran, has been alternating days and didn't work Tuesday. That allowed second-round pick Jake Fisher to work at both left and right tackle and while he's got a long road adjusting to an NFL set compared to what Oregon ran, he certainly has good hands. The former high school tight end caught a couple of balls working as an extra tight end…
That came against the backdrop of at least one drop from all four rookie tight ends. The young tight end with the best hands on Tuesday (excluding Fisher) was first-year man Jake Murphy, who spent half of last season on the Bengals practice squad…
Dalton hooked up with Tate along the back line of the end zone for a touchdown. Same with backup quarterback A.J. McCarron and free-agent rookie receiver Jake Kumerow…McCarron is taking the No. 2 reps….Backup QB Josh Johnson wasn't on the field for unknown reasons…Wide receiver James Wright and safety Shiloh Keo were on the rehab field and neither look seriously injured….Defensive end Margus Hunt seems to have more of a problem than that and head coach Marvin Lewis won't divulge it. But he did say Hunt would be at training camp. Tuesday was the first time Hunt was seen on the field, where he watched from the sidelines…Wide receiver Marvin Jones, coming back from two foot and ankle surgeries, didn't work much Tuesday after returning full go last week. He said he's fine and is ready to go for next week's mandatory minicamp…
Houshmandzadeh says the thing he misses most from his playing days is the competition and there was a lot of intramural jawing on his teams, starting at receiver when he, Chad Johnson, and Kelley Washington would needle each other to death and that was even before Chris Henry got there and then they really went at it. And then at cornerback there was a lot talking with Tory James and Deltha O'Neal. Frankly, Houshmandzadeh was surprised at how quiet it was between receiver and DB during the drills, although he heard "Number 27 (Dre Kirkpatrick) and Pacman were probably the loudest guys. I would have had a good time playing against them."