6-22-04, 6:15 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
If it hadn't been the Bengals calling for the fourth time last week, Alex Sulfsted might well be on his way to retirement at the tender age of 26.
Even if they did cut him just 18 days ago. But as Sulfsted, the Greater Cincinnati product will always tell you, "How can I say, 'No,' when the Bengals call?"
Sulfsted, the backup guard-tackle from Lebanon, Mariemont, and Miami of Ohio, said, "Yes," again Tuesday on a two-year contract less than three weeks after the Bengals released for the second time in 10 months.
Although the talks with former Steelers linebacker Jason Gildon look to be going slowly as he mulls his opportunities, the Bengals are still in the mix along with the Packers, Bills, and Bears. Agent Peter Schaffer called it "status quo," Tuesday evening.
Again, the Bengals turned to Sulfsted after an injury to a tackle. This time they waived Belton Johnson,
a first-year player from Mississippi, after he suffered a torn quad muscle last week in workouts and underwent surgery Monday. If Johnson is not claimed by another NFL team within 10 days, he will be assigned to the Bengals' Injured Reserve list.
The Bengals found Sulfsted at work last Friday at the realtor Comey & Shepherd Inc. He ended up closing a deal on a home and then decided not to close out his career.
"We were talking to a couple of other teams, but I just didn't feel like leaving here, traveling some place, and starting over with somebody else," said Sulfsted, who also owns the real estate company River City Developers.
"If it had been any other team, I probably wouldn't have done it. But this has always been a dream. How do you not go for it? And even though they cut me, I think I'm in a better situation than last year."
The Bengals re-signed Sulfsted last year at the start of training camp after the Redskins released him and ended up cutting him after the third pre-season game. But he thinks he's in better shape now, and after attending "every workout possible and all the coaching sessions (through June 3), I think I've got a better grasp of the offense."
When left tackle Levi Jones underwent arthroscopic knee surgery late last season, the Bengals signed him for the last three games, but he didn't take a snap. After his first stint with the Bengals, the Redskins picked him off the Cincinnati practice squad in 2001 and he ended up playing 14 games and starting three of them in Washington in 2002 while Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was coaching the Redskins' defense.
"It runs through my mind," Sulfsted said of the possibility of not making it out of camp. "But somebody there must like me. Before I signed, I wanted to talk to Coach Lewis and I felt better. He made me feel more confident about having a chance."
Sulfsted is in a heated battle for line depth among other guard-tackles such as Scott Kooistra and Victor Leyva. The five starters, along with center-guard Larry Moore and rookie right tackle Stacy Andrews, look to be heading up the line's depth chart.