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Winston, Bengals eye encore

PHOENIX, Ariz.  - Right tackle Eric Winston says there is mutual interest in him returning to the Bengals next season after both were impressed with each other in the final month of the season.

Winston, in town for Thursday's NFL Players Association news conference, says he's interested in returning as a swing man backing up Andre Smith at right tackle.

"It's the circle of life in the NFL. You come in as a backup, you earn a starting spot, you go out as a backup a lot of times," Winston said. "There's interest on both sides. I don't want to qualify their interest too much more than that. I think they're definitely interested in it. I'm definitely interested in it and hopefully we'll get something done."

Winston, 31, signed with the Bengals Dec. 2 after Smith suffered a season-ending torn triceps. Although he sat out the regular season after getting cut by Seattle in the preseason, his 119 NFL starts served him well and he was able to start the last three games, including the Wild Card Game. With old friend left tackle Andrew Whitworth already here, Winston felt comfortable and he says after being away from the game he liked being back.

"Good guys. Good line. Whit's a great guy. Obviously Andre's a really good player and hopefully Clint (Boling) comes back," Winston said. "It's a team with a lot of talent."

Winston says he doesn't expect much to happen until next month's NFL scouting combine and mid-March free agency hits  the radar.

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