You snooze, you lose.
That would seem to be the way the 2009 season is looking for Cincinnati Bengals rookie right tackle Andre Smith.
Smith’s common sense took a nap in late December, when he engaged in improper contact with an agent, leading to his suspension from Alabama’s Sugar Bowl loss to Utah on Jan. 5.
He took a mental snooze in February, when he decided to head for the exits of the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis early without informing his group leader, raising questions about his NFL preparedness.
Now, in August, as his new Bengal teammates are preparing for their first preseason game on Friday night in New Orleans, Smith seems to be suffering his biggest torpidity-induced hurdle yet: physical inactivity due to his now two-week-old holdout.
By spending Friday night 300 miles away from New Orleans at his home in Birmingham, Smith will be missing out on valuable repetitions against a Saints defense that features a very palatable outlook for a rookie right tackle.
The 4-3 defense that Gregg Williams has installed in the Big Easy would not have required as much adroitness—mental or physical—out of Smith, as he would have been familiar with the defense that every SEC team, save Smith’s own Crimson Tide, ran last season.
Also, having a defensive end—likely Charles Grant or Paul Spicer, neither of whom poses an overly imposing threat—head-up on him would make the introduction to right tackle in the NFL a smoother journey.
Furthermore, as the Bengals offense begins to mesh, particularly the offensive line featuring Anthony Collins at right tackle, the prospect of Smith competing for a starting job this season is rapidly dwindling.
He may receive a healthy paycheck after his holdout is resolved, but if walks into Georgetown, Ky.—or at this rate, the Bengals' downtown practice facility—playing catch-up behind an effective offensive line, it will not matter how many zeros are on his paycheck.
There are a lot of zeros on Carson Palmer’s pay stub as well, and maintaining an effective front on his right side takes precedence over any star-studded, hulking draftee.
It seems that the sooner that Smith and his agent Alvin Keels wake up from their greedy demands and realize the price that the rookie is paying in lost opportunities outweighs any financial gain to be leveraged through drawn-out hardball, the better Smith—and the Bengals—will be.
Until then, the virtual alarm clock will keep ringing. Let’s just hope there isn't a snooze button for that as well.