Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman Andre Smith has faced a tough road since coming into the league during the 2009 NFL Draft. Negotiations, injuries, lack of work ethic have all contributed to a negative perspective that Smith wasn't providing that injection of talent required of him when the team ran the risk in drafting the Alabama tackle sixth overall. Marvin Lewis hasn't been the most supportive with Smith while responding to questions with the media, once saying:
"Andre’s going to figure out how to become a pro and do things the way it’s asked to do all the time. Hopefully he continues to do it in a timely fashion. Because otherwise, I’m not going to go through this year in and year out."
But even Lewis' tone began softening later during the 2010 season, seeing within the offensive tackle a gradual understanding of what it takes to become the progressive player that's impressing so many today. Smith searched for peace with an aggressive nutrition that lowed his weight to a self-reported 333 pounds with an explosive fire forming after the admission to Andrew Whitworth that it's time to step up. How do you find peace with aggression, you might ask? Just ask the Klingons.
During Tuesday's press conference, Marvin Lewis offered additional praise for Smith, who is starting to finally settle in as a Cincinnati Bengals player.
"He never knew what it looked like down here (at training camp). But I coached a guy in Baltimore (Peter Boulware) that had about three years without training camp, and he went to a bunch of Pro Bowls, so I hope Andre has the same kind of career. It’s been good to see him just be one of the guys and no longer be a story about his foot or this or that. As I told him yesterday, ‘You just blend right in now. No one’s ever talking about you.’ And that’s a good thing, and he’s blending in most importantly assignment-wise. He’s taken leaps and bounds since we put him on the field for the first time. We’ve got a big investment in Andre and we think he can be an outstanding football player, and now he has the opportunity to go out there and prove those things."
We know that the comments on Smith are typically vile or, at the very least, impatient for his slow development. But none of that matters now. All that matters is today and tomorrow. And right now he's the team's starting right tackle who appears to be doing everything right.
The first true test will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday night.