Bengals TE Gresham: Kelly Taught Me How to be a Man

PITTSBURGH - DECEMBER 12: Reggie Kelly #82 of the Cincinnati Bengals is hit by James Farrior #51 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after catching a pass during the game on December 12 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Bengals have been in camp and are now less than a week away from playing in their first preseason game against the Lions. They have signed some free agents and re-signed some of their own players. The free-agency flurry has seemed to have died down over the last couple of days as teams are beginning to see what they have before they start bringing in new players.

One of the players that the Bengals signed in this year's shortened offseason was Bo Scaife, a veteran tight end from the Tennessee Titans. Scaife joins the already talented group of Bengals tight ends including Jermaine Gresham, Chase Coffman, John Nalbone, Garrett Mills and Colin Cochart. Gresham, Coffman and Scaife are the likely choices if the team decides to only keep three tight ends and Cochart, who has been impressing people at camp, could make the team if they decide to go with four.

What is unlikely to happen is the Bengals looking to add another tight end in free agency. That means that the Bengals likely won't be re-signing free agent Reggie Kelly after eight years of service. That's not very surprising. Kelly, who was never known as the biggest threat in the passing game, served as a mentor to Gresham last year and Gresham's improvement as a blocker means the team doesn't really need Kelly anymore.

Gresham is grateful for the time he got to spend with Kelly as a Bengal, though.

"(Kelly) taught me how to be a professional. Everything about being a pro on and off the field, how to take care of yourself, how to take care of your body. Being a man. He taught me a lot that one year."

Kelly was known for his leadership qualities in the locker room as much as he was for his blocking prowess on the field. His presence in both places will likely be missed.

Kelly recently visited with the Pittsburgh Steelers but left without signing with the Bengals rival and it's unclear as to whether another team will be interested in the 11-year veteran.

While at Cincy Jungle, I've been lucky enough to interview Kelly a few times and each time he was extremely kind and pleasant to talk to. I respect him as much or more than any player for what he did on the field as well as what he did, and continues to do, off the field.

The last time we talked on the phone was when he was getting ready to unveil his Kyvan Salsa in the Cincinnati area at Jungle Jim's. I asked him if he didn't re-sign with the Bengals, if he would want to continue to play football elsewhere. He said yes, but he knew that he wouldn't have a problem hanging up the cleats either.

"If I don't, I don't have a problem with riding off into the sunset," Kelly said. "If another team doesn't want to give me an opportunity to play, then so be it. I will ride off into the sunset and continue doing what I'm doing right now -- that's promoting the book (Prepared) and also, promoting the food line."

I personally wish Reggie the best of luck, whether that be signing with another team (please not Pittsburgh) or continuing to pursue his non-football interests.

Anything that Gresham, the Bengals future tight end, learned from Kelly in the one year they spent together could only be a good thing.

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