Updated: 10 p.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. — With a full padded practice 18 hours after the last one ended, the Bengals are in the dog days at Georgetown College and for the first time in his three seasons with them right tackle Andre Smith is right with them.
With just 32 days until the regular-season opener and no time to ease in, the first offensive line took an estimated 35 to 40 snaps Monday night and then came back with another heavy dose Tuesday afternoon. It capped Smith's first week of practice since he broke his foot a second time last November and on Tuesday morning he was thanking God.
"I just thank God my foot isn't the problem," Smith said. "It's the rust. WD40 is my friend right now. I've got to work on technique. I was a little tired at the end, but it wasn't too bad. It's like climbing a mountain. It's a process."
How good does Smith look? You can tell by the smile on head coach Marvin Lewis' face. Smith has gone from the butt of the rookie show jokes in 2009 to the starting right tackle Friday night in the preseason opener in Detroit.
"He never knew what it looked like down here," Lewis said of Smith's absences from the field via a holdout and rehab plagued by weight issues. "But I coached a guy in Baltimore (Peter Boulware) that had about three years without training camp, and he went to a bunch of Pro Bowls, so I hope Andre has the same kind of career. It's been good to see him just be one of the guys and no longer be a story about his foot or this or that. As I told him yesterday, 'You just blend right in now. No one's ever talking about you.' And that's a good thing.
"He's blending in most importantly assignment-wise. He's taken leaps and bounds since we put him on the field for the first time. We've got a big investment in Andre and we think he can be an outstanding football player, and now he has the opportunity to go out there and prove those things."
It's basically the first time offensive line coach Paul Alexander has been able to work the progression of basics with Smith even though the Bengals drafted him more than two years ago and Alexander can already see the benefits.
"He's doing a good job. He's coming off the injury so we're monitoring how he feels every day," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "He just has to get back into the flow. Get him in shape. He looks very good. I don't know what he looked like before, but I heard it wasn't very good. He looks good to me right now and we're excited he's a candidate to start at right tackle."
And the coaches can't wait around for anybody the way this season has unfolded. They don't have plans to rotate Smith.
"He needs to play," Gruden said. "He needs to practice. He needs to get the reps. We have to see if the foot holds up. Right now it's holding up and we're excited about it."
So is Smith. But cautiously after so much frustration with the foot.
"One day at a time," he said.
D-LINE MOVE: With agent Angelo Wright confirming a deal for defensive lineman Jon Fanene on Tuesday night that is another one-year contract, it is more indication the Bengals are going to go make a push to extend starters such as cornerback Leon Hall and center Kyle Cook, as well as possibly left tackle Andrew Whitworth, while keeping an eye on wide receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell, and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. Whitworth has recently signed estimable veteran agent Pat Dye, now a partner with the powerhouse firm of Jimmy Sexton.
With Fanene expected to sign, here's how the defensive line picture shapes up, keeping in mind the Bengals usually keep eight.
ENDS: Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers, Carlos Dunlap, James Ruffin, Victor Adeyanju.
TACKLES: Domata Peko, Tank Johnson, Geno Atkins, Jason Shirley, Clinton McDonald.
SWING MEN: Frostee Rucker, Jon Fanene.
INJURED: DTs Pat Sims, Lolomana Mikaele.
If Fanene can return to his '09 form, he'll be getting a lot more than a one-year deal next year. Before he hurt his hamstring last preseason and played just two games, he had a career year in '09 with 6.5 sacks while replacing the injured Antwan Odom. His value is that he can swing inside in the base defense.
Rucker is also a swing guy that can move from end to tackle in pass situations. A big factor here is the time frame on Sims' knee. With Fanene traveling here Wednesday and the Bengals traveling to Detroit on Thursday, Wright expects him on the field for Monday's first practice after the preseason opener.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» The Bengals had another rollicking session of short yardage and goal line in full pads Tuesday afternoon. Joining Smith in the fun for the first time was running back Cedric Benson.
The offense scored three times on five shots from the 2-yard line with Benson powering over the left side of the first line against the second line and rookie running John Griffin picking his spot behind the left side of the line against the first line. They also scored on quarterback Bruce Gradkowski's play-action flip to fullback James Develin.
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga drilled rookie running back Jonathan Williams for no gain and safety Reggie Nelson defended rookie tight end Colin Cochart tightly on quarterback Andy Dalton's play-action rollout flip.
Maualuga had a good, aggressive day. Head coach Marvin Lewis sat him down for a snap after he threw down Benson on a short-yardage running play that blew up when Nelson came up from the side and caused a fumble. Benson, who had seven fumbles last season, wasn't going "Here we go again."
"Come on, first day," said Benson of his first day of contact. "I needed that to happen. It reminds of where I was holding the ball and where I need to hold it."
» Dalton had a much better day than Monday night and had Jim Miller of Sirius Radio enthused about his accuracy. Miller raved about two throws Dalton put on the money in the end zone on a loft. The first one hit wide receiver A.J. Green in the facemask and the second Green atoned for his mistake and made the leaping catch.
Dalton had a crisp 1:40 drill, completing four of six passes for 40 yards with one of the incompletions a spike. Bruce Gradkowski hit all three of his passes for 28 yards and Jordan Palmer threw the only TD pass, a 33-yarder to free agent wide receiver Andrew Hawkins that he caught on a vertical inside cornerback David Pender. Hawkins also had the big catch in the Gradkowski drive, an 18-yarder Palmer hit 4-of-5 while Dan LeFevour struggled. He was 1-of-4 and had one ball taken out of his hands by right end Michael Johnson.
Palmer hit the cycle when in another drill he threw a pick-six over the middle, where only WILL linebacker Thomas Howard was standing.
» After Monday night's show, wide receiver Jerome Simpson made two more leaping acrobatic jump ball catches Tuesday over Leon Hall, a cornerback not exactly chopped liver. Simpson had a good half a foot leap over Hall both times.
"He's a great defender. I love going against him," Simpson said. "(He makes us) a lot better because he's one of the top DBs in the league."
» The Bengals practiced three last-second field goals and Mike Nugent hit from 34 and 40 and rookie Thomas Weber from 30.
» The muscle strains are starting to pile up. Receivers Andre Caldwell and Quan Cosby, and rookie cornerback Korey Lindsey had ice packs situated that indicated they had some type of abdominal pulls. Hard to see them playing against the Lions on Friday night, as it is with running back Bernard Scott and fullback Fui Vakapuna, out since the first day of practice with tight hamstrings. And defensive end Carlos Dunlap missed his third straight day and had ice on his knee.
LINE OF THE DAY: Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. He could have it every day, but when asked Tuesday if he had installed as much of his system as he wanted, he said, "I can always install plays. I just have to slow down. People have to slow me down. I can install 50 plays a night. That's not what's good for this team. What's good for this team is giving them a chance to win and giving them enough things they can be successful with on the field with knowing what to do."