Visiting Day


Dre Kirkpatrick

Updated: 10:15 p.m.

Day 3 of free agency became a mixed bag for the Bengals when right tackle Andre Smith stayed on the market, another Buckeye visited Paul Brown Stadium in the person of return ace Ted Ginn Jr., and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick vowed to be in the starting lineup when the season dawns.

Also in the house was veteran backup quarterback Josh Johnson as the Bengals peruse the market in the wake of Bruce Gradkowski's departure to the Steelers.

And they were still interested in four of their players who had taken trips elsewhere in middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (Arizona), cornerback Terence Newman (Oakland), special teams captain/linebacker Dan Skuta (San Francisco), and linebacker Thomas Howard (Miami).

But with Smith not yet signed, the next domino had yet to fall Thursday night.

Kirkpatrick appeared with the team's de facto captains, defensive tackle Domata Peko and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, at Thursday's thank-you session in the Bengals ticket office. After calling season ticket holders who had re-upped for the upcoming season, Kirkpatrick said they'd see him in the starting lineup.

"I'm going to start. That's my goal. That what I believe and that's what I stand behind," Kirkpatrick said. "I know I can. I have to be. It's the position I play … confidence never hurt anybody."

The man nicknamed "Swag" apparently hasn't lost any of it despite playing just five games and 43 snaps last season as a rookie. Plus, he's rehabbing his knee again that got cleaned out with a recent procedure that relieved the bone spur problem and should put him on the practice field for the first time on the first day of training camp.

"I feel like I've got great leadership skills," he said on what he's bringing to camp. "I'm a physical guy. I'm not one of these guys that's going to pushed over. I'll hold my ground."

It's believed that the Bengals want to bring back in free agency two of their regular three cornerbacks that played so well in the second half of the season, Newman and Adam Jones. Along with Leon Hall they combined to hold foes to four touchdown passes in the last nine games.

But Kirkpatrick, the 17th pick out of Alabama, is on deck. And he's thankful to those three guys.

"The one thing they've been stressing to me is that I've got to be more patient in this game and that's one of the traits I'll continue to take from those guys," Kirkpatrick said. "I learned a lot. Terence was in my ear, Leon was in my ear, and (Jones) was in my ear. All those guys were great leaders to me. It wasn't just one guy I could go to. I could go to all those guys."

It's believed that Newman and Jones want to return to work under defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, the man that revived the career of the 35-year-old Newman, as well as helping Jones to the best season of his six years in the league. But they're also coming off one-year deals they'd no doubt like to improve.

Kirkpatrick is starting to think watching his teammates play most of the year might not have been a bad thing.

"I feel like one of the best things that could have happened to me was for me to sit there and watch," Kirkpatrick said from the half-full glass. "Watch the speed of the game. Watch how guys try to get guys out of their routes. Just go out there and really having a sense of how to attack the game and know how the game is played out there."

Whitworth hopes his bookend Smith returns, but he can only offer advice.

"They need to make the best decision for themselves; all you can encourage them is that you want them," Whitworth said. "We have unfinished business and you hope you're a part of of something that we have here because it's something special.

"At the end of the day, sure, you want them to go take care of themselves financially. But for the most part, you see it every year. Guys go places and don't have success. You want to go somewhere where you're going to have a chance to be successful and let that be the most important guide because the truth is, all of us make plenty of money, more than we deserve. You want to go somewhere and win because that's going to make you enjoy it."

Maualuga visited Arizona on Wednesday, but the Cards signed Jasper Brinkley on Thursday night and Maualuga has yet to surface in Baltimore, where the rumors have pushed him for months. Yet it's believed the Bengals would like to have him back as a physical force that can play both SAM and Mike for them and knows the defense. Brinkley started 15 games for the Vikings last season in his first year as a regular, according to Pro Football Talk.

Skuta, who has 56 special teams tackles in 56 career games, is looking at the same role in San Francisco. But his agent said Thursday that door hasn't been closed on the Bengals.

Ginn, the former Dolphins and 49ers return ace could be what the Bengals are looking for at receiver and on special teams, but mainly as a returner. A Cleveland native who was a first-round pick of the Dolphins out of Ohio State in 2007, Ginn has six career return touchdowns with three each coming off punts and kickoffs. He also has 161 career catches for a 12.7-yard average, six for touchdowns, but he had just two catches for a yard last season.

He would fit the role that free-agent wide receiver Brandon Tate filled last year as a kick returner who split time with punt returner Adam Jones while taking a few snaps as an outside receiver. With A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones taking the bulk of those later in the season, Tate ended up with 278 plays and 13 catches for 211 yards. Ginn also has worn Tate's No. 19 his entire NFL career.

Like Gradkowski, Johnson was drafted by Tampa Bay when Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden was a Buccaneers offensive assistant in 2008. Johnson didn't throw a pass last year while playing in one game for the Browns. The Bucs took him in the fifth round and in his three seasons with Tampa Bay he was 0-5 as a starter with five touchdown passes and 10 interceptions while completing 54 percent of his 177 passes.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.