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Vick not a fit; Coffman signs

Roy Williams

Updated: 5:45 p.m.

A veteran and a rookie were the two semi surprises on head coach Marvin Lewis' depth chart when it was revealed Tuesday morning at the Bengals training camp media luncheon at Paul Brown Stadium.

Also Tuesday, Bengals president Mike Brown said Mike Vick isn't a fit here because of the presence of Carson Palmer. But he endorsed commissioner Roger Goodell's conditional reinstatement of Vick.

"Quarterbacks are like queen bees," Brown said. "Carson is the guy."

"He did exactly the right thing. I'm sort of proud how he went about it," Brown said of Goodell. "He split the baby in a pretty impressive fashion. I would argue that Michael Vick made a bad error, but what a price he's paid. He's paid millions of dollars. Millions. He's lost his reputation. He's gone to prison. I don't know what more you could do to a guy that's been done to him. I don't think he should forever be denied a chance to get back as a productive citizen. I wish him well. I hope a team picks him up and gives him the chance to play. Give him the chance to redeem himself. I think it would be nice if it ends up a good story." 

Shortly after the luncheon the club announced the second of its third-round picks, Missouri tight end Chase Coffman, had agreed to what is believed to be a four-year deal.

Even though they had about the same number of snaps during the spring workouts, five-time Pro Bowler Roy Williams is listed as the starting strong safety ahead of last year's incumbent Chinedum Ndukwe. Seventh-rounder Fui Vakapuna is the starting fullback and the unknown status of former starter Jeremi Johnson is underlined by his third-team position behind J.D. Runnels.

Incumbent Antonio Chatman is the punt returner and wide receiver Andre Caldwell is the kick returner with sixth-rounder Bernard Scott listed at third for both.

The only other starting rookies are Andre Smith at right tackle and Kevin Huber at punter. The unsigned Smith, projected by many as a holdout, is backed up by a second-year player that started six games at left tackle last season in Anthony Collins.

Also unsigned but expected to be at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky., by Friday's first practice are second-rounder Ray Maualuga and third-rounder Michael Johnson. As he was in the spring, Maualuga is backing up incumbent Rashad Jeanty at SAM linebacker. Johnson, who also played some SAM in the spring, is listed as the third right defensive end behind Antwan Odom and Frostee Rucker. Coffman is the fourth tight end behind Reggie Kelly, Ben Utecht and Daniel Coats.

At running back, veteran Kenny Watson gets the early nod in the derby to back up starter Cedric Benson and the rookies get the outside poles with Scott and Nebraska free agent Marlon Lucky listed behind Brian Leonard, DeDe Dorsey and James Johnson.

Caldwell backs up new starter Laveranues Coles at wide receiver and Chris Henry backs up Chad Ochocinco on the opposite side with Chatman and Jerome Simpson next in line. In what is thought to be an intriguing battle, J.T. O'Sullivan is the backup quarterback with Jordan Palmer running third. David Jones and Geoff Pope are the backup cornerbacks and Marvin White joins Ndukwe as the other backup safety behind starter Chris Crocker at free.

White, coming off reconstructive knee surgery, and starting left end Robert Geathers, coming off microfracture knee surgery, are expected to be ready Friday after rehabbing all spring and not appearing in drills.

Williams, who turns 29 next month, is said to be at 221 pounds, his lightest in several years, and has impressed the coaches with coverage skills that many criticized when he signed a one-year deal back in May.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who coached Williams to four of those Pro Bowls, said he's been impressed with Williams' commitment.

"He wants to get back to where he was," Zimmer said. "I told him that these five weeks (between mandatory minicamp and Friday) were the most important of his career."

But then again, a depth chart is only worth paper it's written on.

"Depth chart? I didn't know we had one," Zimmer said. "Who else is starting?"

Zimmer has talked about a three-safety package if they are his best players on certain downs and Ndukwe is going to battle for playing time simply off his track record of getting his hands on the ball. If Zimmer decides Williams is primarily a run player, he's got a guy in Ndukwe that in his first two seasons, 25 games, and 13 starts in the league has returned two fumbles for touchdowns, made four interceptions, and defensed 11 passes.

Ndukwe was at PBS earlier Tuesday for a summit with members of the business community when he was asked if it mattered where he was on the depth chart.

"No. I haven't changed since I've been here," said Ndukwe, a seventh-round pick out of Notre Dame. "Coming in here I've always been competing with guys like Dexter Jackson, a Super Bowl MVP, and Madieu (Williams) just signed one of the biggest deals for a safety in a long time. I think I'm fully prepared to go into any kind of competition and battle in camp. It doesn't matter because as long as I'm on the field I'm going to make plays. I'm going to do everything in my power to put myself in position on the field and it's up to the coaches to make decisions. I'm just a player.

"Honestly, as a competitor I don't want to come off the field first down through fourth down."

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said the lineup is pretty much set on the offensive line, although he did say left guard (where Nate Livings is penciled in) is up in the air. Listed behind Livings is Evan Mathis, whose 15 NFL starts came at right guard with the Panthers in 2006.

Also Tuesday, Highlands High School's Dale Mueller was named the 2008 winner of the Paul Brown Excellence in Coaching Award. Mueller has won seven state titles at the Fort Thomas, Ky., school and has a 188-33 record at his alma mater.

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