Ratliff knows these Bengals


Ratliff in action in 2006 during his first stint with the Bengals. (Bengals photo)

Posted: 8:35 a.m.

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Keiwan Ratliff has seen the Cardiac Cats up close. Two years to the day the Bengals cut him, he was in the Steelers secondary back on Sept. 27 at Paul Brown Stadium for the first of Carson Comeback's winning last-minute drives in the Bengals' 23-20 win secured on 71 yards, the last four coming on wide receiver Andre Caldwell's touchdown catch with 14 seconds left.

"I was out there the whole drive. It's never a surprise when you've got a guy like Carson. I went against it every day in practice," Ratliff said Monday night from his Cincinnati hotel room, back on the Bengals just in time for the playoffs. "It was a little different because of all the fourth downs he made. He didn't have any first or second downs."

This is why football is a funny game. Ratliff was on the archrival Steelers sideline only a few weeks ago when the Bengals won what basically turned out to be the AFC North title game in Pittsburgh, 18-12. He was inactive and cut the next week, but now he's back for the biggest game in four years to provide depth for a decimated safety corps.

After meeting with secondary coach Kevin Coyle on Monday, Ratliff knows the Bengals are looking at him as a safety first but they also know he's smart enough to play anywhere quickly. Ratliff worked out for the Bengals on Monday and when they saw he still had a pulse, they knew they also had a smart guy that could adjust.

"That's where they have the most injuries, so safety is what they've got me looking at right now," Ratliff said. "But they know I can play all the spots."

But he'll have to learn it in this defense. The Bengals drafted Ratliff as a cornerback in the second round in 2004 with Leslie Frazier as the defensive coordinator and he had three interceptions for Chuck Bresnahan's 2005 defense. Now he's getting a crash course in Mike Zimmer's scheme and he said, "There's not much that is the same, that's for sure."

But he's a well-traveled veteran used to cramming. Once Ratliff showed up in Indianapolis on a Friday night and was playing Sunday. Suddenly, with starting safety Chris Crocker back in the lineup after missing the last three games and backup Tom Nelson now limping with a knee injury, Ratliff more than likely is going to be back in the playoffs for the third time Saturday against the Jets.

He's one of eight Bengals here for the Wild Card game in 2005, and he appeared in the 2007 postseason with the Colts.

"The locker room is totally different. There aren't a lot of guys who were here when I was here," he said. "It's different, but it's got the same feel. It's good to be back."

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