Dez Briscoe gets in some work on the first day of rookie minicamp. (AP photo)
Updated: 6:45 p.m.
It's not often you see a future Hall of Famer walking around and that guy wearing a Bengals cap at Friday's rookie practice turned out to be former Steelers center Dermontti Dawson. Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, used to seeing Dawson at times block three and four guys after he snapped the ball, plans to use him just as much now.
Dawson, the former Steelers center and future Pro Football Hall of Famer who retired in 2000 after 13 seasons, made his debut at Friday's rookie camp as a coach from the Bill Walsh minority intern coaching program. He'll be with the club deep into training camp and Lewis sees him in a variety of roles. He's not only working with the offensive line, but Lewis wants him to mentor guys like center Kyle Cook and last year's No. 1 pick, right tackle Andre Smith.
"A great professional," said Lewis, who worked with Dawson in Pittsburgh and against him in Baltimore. "Here was a guy who was a very talented overachiever. As talented as he was, he was the hardest working guy ever. First guy here. Last one to leave. Best knee-bender. Whatever you did, you were going to pick Dermontii to do it first. That's the kind of guy he was and still is. I told him I was going to use the hell out of him.
"We'll use him up. He'll feel exploited when he leaves here. We're going to use all his abilities."
Lewis corrected someone when he observed that Lewis schemed against Dawson in the last four seasons of his career.
"You didn't scheme against Dermontti," Lewis said. "He schemed against you."
Dawson, a top 10 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist this past year, laughed when someone told him he never thought he would see Dawson in a Bengals cap.
"Any team I'm with, that's who I'm with. It's great," said Dawson, who worked with the Steelers last training camp.
Dawson not only became one of the game's great centers, but also one of the NFL's truly good guys and so there is no surprise that he's not making a big deal about Canton.
"I don't lose any sleep," Dawson said. "They said, 'You should have got in on the first ballot.' There are a lot of deserving guys on the ballot each and every year. It's tough and from my standpoint, being a Steeler, you've had so many guys go in. You just maybe have to wait your turn. If it happens, it would be great. If not, I'll still be doing my thing."
After a decade of retirement and working in the financial field, it now looks like that is coaching.
"I like the coaching aspect of it and I like the personnel aspect of it," he said. "This is a great chance to get experience and the more experience I get the better off I'll be."
LEWIS LIKES WINDT: Free agent rookie long snapper Mike Windt should have a chance at making this club. A two-time long-snapper for Cincinnati Elder High School's back-to-back state champs, Windt went on to the University of Cincinnati to snap for the Bearcats' Orange and Sugar bowl teams. He's already got a good thing going with Bengals punter Kevin Huber, a guy that reached All-American status at UC with Windt snapping.
Plus, three times head coach Marvin Lewis said, "Mike is very talented" in Friday's news conference, making it clear there is going to be a battle with incumbent Clark Harris for the long snapper job. Harris signed early last season in the wake of long-time snapper Brad St. Louis' woes and Lewis says Harris brings the advantage of playing tight end as well as an ability "to cover the field."
But Windt, 23, is younger and, as Lewis saw Friday, "Watching out there today, he's got a lot of ability. Great accuracy, great velocity with it, great feel for it. He'll get a good opportunity to see if he can do it here for us."
Lewis said Windt's experience with Huber isn't a factor because "I don't think Kevin has time to think about who is snapping."
Huber is also the holder on field goals and extra points, but Lewis wouldn't rule out rookie wide receiver Jordan Shipley doing the duties. Special teams coach Darrin Simmons likes to have the kicker, holder and long snapper work together during most of practice, which is a reason the punter does it and a position player doesn't.
But Lewis said the Bengals have 24 hours in a day to figure something out if Shipley "were the best holder, that would be great."
Windt is staring at one big obstacle. Because UC doesn't graduate until early June, he can't return to practice with the team until the last two camps. The one thing going for him is he can hook up with Huber anywhere but at PBS.
"It's tough because you'd like to have him around getting used to everything," Simmons said after practice. "He did all right. He's got to learn the tempo of the NFL game. Everything moves from drill to drill and during the drills a lot faster. A lot quicker. That will be a process I would imagine he'll adjust to pretty quickly."
Windt is wearing St. Louis' old No. 48 and he doesn't mind that at all. He never talked to him, but he admired him.
"The guy was one of the best in the league," Windt said. "I copied everything the guy did. I don't know what happened to him (last year), but I always watched him and tried to imitate him."
INJURY UPDATE: The wide receivers really got hit hard with nagging muscle pulls and cramps. Sixth-rounder Dez Briscoe (groin) looks to be done for the weekend with a strain from the morning. Freddie Brown, a seventh-round pick last year eligible for this camp, came up lame, and tryout candidate Carlos Singleton from Memphis was also out. Another tryout guy, Hampton running back LaMarcus Coker, couldn't go because of cramps.
» Shipley, a wide receiver from Texas, heard about Chad Ochocinco's tweet welcoming him to the team after last week's draft, but his Twitter page is a fake and he doesn't think he'll ever get one.
Shipley appreciates the sentiment, particulalry the offer of McDonald's and jewelry, and he says he's looking forward to learning from The Ocho. But he's not a Twitter or jewelry guy and he admits it's a little unnerving what can go on in cyberspace. He says there is also a fake MySpace page attributed to him.
"It is a dangerous thing nowadays because people can get on those deals and act like you and try to get you in trouble and all kinds of stuff," Shipley said. "People have the freedom to do those things and it is a little scary that they can say what they want to and people don't know that it's not you."
Shipley said he wasn't aware of it until a few days ago when he got a call from his agent and it is his understanding it is being taken care of.
» The receivers watched some cutups Friday morning and while everyone else in the NFL compares Shipley to Wes Welker, Bengals fans would love another T.J. Houshmandzadeh and he does see some similarities at the way they both try to find creases in the defense.
"I think they're looking at me doing a lot of slot stuff," said Shipley, who says he's comfortable playing outside after playing last year at X.
» College teammate Roddrick Muckelroy, drafted a round later, said he lined up in the Friday morning session at both SAM and middle linebacker. He's never played SAM but he doesn't think it's going to be a problem because he has played the outside before at WILL. "The responsibilities are pretty much the same. I don't want to be a one-position player," he said.
» Which is what is pretty much No. 1 pick Jermaine Gresham's take. With Gresham, what you see is what you get. A lot of focus and few words.
"Football is football. Nothing changes," he said after his first NFL practice. "Blocked some. Ran some routes. Caught a few. Nothing major."
Gresham is an example of why in a camp like this that is so limited with team concepts that Lewis' staff is spending "more time on the parts instead of the whole."
With Gresham moving around he was forced to get into a left-handed stance, something he has rarely done, Lewis said, and the coach noticed during the morning he had to think and change back into it.
"This afternoon he just went out and did it," Lewis said. "Those things like that. Which are very cool to get done right now so when they come back here (in two weeks) these things are all out of the way."
» Fifth-rounder Otis Hudson, a tackle from Eastern Illinois, lined up at right guard and has been told he's backing up Bobbie Williams. A guard/defensive tackle at Minnesota before he transferred, he thinks playing tackle has hurt him a little bit because on Friday he found himself giving too much room to the defensive tackle when they lined up. He played both at Minnesota and he wanted to concentrate on the offensive line, so he transferred.
» The locker of long-time tight end Reggie Kelly has been cleaned out and the nameplate removed, but the Bengals are still trying to sign him. That is just protocol with unsigned guys when a camp begins.
» With 25 tryout guys in camp, the Bengals could sign as many as three. Or they could sign no one. Even if they re-sign Kelly, they're probably looking for another tight end, and they can always use an extra running back or offensive lineman.
» Ashland's Billy Cundiff and Miami of Ohio's Daniel Raudabaugh are the quarterbacks as the Bengals may or may not seek a fourth for camp.
» Three running backs are looking for a shot: Coker, Cincinnati's Jacob Ramsey and Illinois' Dan Dufrene.
» Mount St. Joseph pass rusher Alex Harbin literally came off the edge to get a shot in the tryouts. He got the call at the last minute Thursday afternoon when a linebacker the Bengals had lined up for a tryout signed elsewhere. The 6-2, 247-pound Harbin had some big-time numbers at the Division III Cincinnati school after playing in the city at Elder High School.
» Newly-acquired safety DeAngelo Willingham is eligible for the camp and is expected to get here in time for Friday afternoon's workout.
» Free agent linebacker Vincent Rey of Duke missed the morning practice as he waited on some tests, but he went in the afternoon.
» Former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton, who spoke to the rookies Thursday night, took in a little bit of the Friday morning practice and said he likes both Florida end Carlos Dunlap and Georgia tackle Geno Atkins. He thought Atkins had a good Senior Bowl and that the 6-6 Dunlap is going to be a rusher from inside with 6-5 Antwan Odom: "Imagine with those two putting their hands up."