Updated: 7:50 p.m.
Tight end Ben Utecht had a surprise Tuesday when he was told he had been released off the injured reserve list after recently being cleared for his fifth concussion.
The phone call ended a Bengals career that had begun with such high hopes in restricted free agency last year and ended with just 16 catches in 10 games after he suffered a blow in a line drill during the first week of training camp that knocked him unconscious for several seconds.
"I was under the impression when they put me on injured reserve at the beginning of the year that they were sticking with me for the season and I was going to be ready for next year," Utecht said. "But different agendas. I understand it from a business standpoint, but emotionally it's a disappointment. I never really got an explanation."
Also released off IR Tuesday was wide receiver Antonio Chatman, another free-agent pickup who was never really healthy in Cincinnati. Since coming over from Green Bay in 2006, Chatman ended three of his four seasons on injured reserve and ended up with 43 catches in 26 games. This year Chatman suffered an ankle injury in the second week of camp.
Also Tuesday, the Bengals signed safety Brannon Condren to the practice squad. The 6-1, 205-pound Condren is a third-year NFL player out of Troy who was waived July 29 by the Colts. A fourth-round draft choice of Indianapolis in 2007, he played in eight games that season, with two tackles, a pass defensed and four special-teams tackles. He was waived by the Colts Aug. 30, 2008. Later in '08, he was inactive for four games with St. Louis and played in four games for Miami, with three special-teams tackles.
ESPN reported Tuesday the Bengals worked out a trio of veterans in wide receiver Joey Galloway, defensive tackle Ed Johnson, and safety Mike Doss, a guy that was with them late last season.
Utecht arrived in March 2008 when the Colts failed to match the Bengals offer of three-year, $9 million with a signing bonus of what was believed to be in the $3 million range. A pass receiving tight end who flourished under quarterback Peyton Manning, Utecht was supposed to be the big target over the middle Carson Palmer never had. But when he suffered a badly bruised chest early in the second game of the season, he was in out of the lineup until a foot injury took him out of three games.
"It's tough because my career has had these injuries that are out my control," Utecht said. "I'm surprised because I thought since they had paid me this long that they would just stick it out with me. That's disappointing from an emotional standpoint. But the first thing people say is that it's a business and I understand that."
The move shows the Bengals are probably concerned about his history of concussions. When he responded slowly and still had symptoms for the following month, the Bengals put him down for the year. But Utecht says he no longer has symptoms and is confident about playing next year. He's eligible to play this year for another team.
"I can but I don't know if it's the smart thing to do," Utecht said.
The tough thing, he says, is no longer being part of this special season.
"People asked why I would leave a championship program; this is why," he said. "With all the talent and all the players. I busted my butt for two offseasons and I feel like I helped this offense and this defense get better. It's going to be hard not to be a part of it."
The Bengals believe they have their future pass-catching tight end in third-rounder Chase Coffman, even though he has yet to be active for a game. With Reggie Kelly also on IR (Achilles) they have been impressed with the man that has replaced him in the starting lineup, J.P. Foschi. Kelly's future with the club is up in the air. He becomes a free agent next spring soon after he turns 32. He says he'd like to re-sign and end his career here.
The Utecht move is about a push under the salary cap. The balance of his cap count accelerates into this season, but the number is probably offset by the remaining '09 salary.
Galloway, the pride of Bellaire, Ohio, and Ohio State, apparently put on an impressive show by reportedly flashing excellent speed for a man who turns 38 this Friday. But at the moment there doesn't look to be any room at the inn. The Bengals could use a stretch-the-field guy now that Chris Henry (forearm) is done for the year, but how much of that is in their game now? The expendable guy would appear to be Jerome Simpson, who has been inactive for all nine games. But there are no signs they are giving up on their second-rounder from 2008.