The competition at cornerback will be one of the bigger headline-driven stories during training camp this year. Will Leon Hall hit his targeted date of July 27? Will the team throw rookie Dre Kirkpatrick into the fire immediately? Which veteran cornerback will step up and who finds himself on the outside looking in? And will Brandon Ghee be the dark horse that upsets everything?
Ghee's start to a rather inauspicious NFL career began with a serious concussion during the preseason as a rookie and prematurely ended his rookie season with a groin injury. Then months later, with such uncertainty surrounding the NFL lockout, Ghee took it upon himself to stay in shape. Choosing not to pay for pricey NFL training regiments, without some picture on when he'll get another paycheck, he remained in Cincinnati and worked out at a public gym (courtesy of the Fay Observer).
"Nobody necessarily knew how to work out," said Ghee, who did spend time at Bommarito Performance Systems in South Florida. "I went to Miami for a while but came home because you don't want to spend the money when nobody knows" when you're going to play.
Ghee admits, during an interview with the Fay Observer, that during his rookie season, it was a little overwhelming and it took until the end of training camp to really catch on (something we suspect that Dre Kirkpatrick will experience this year).
"You're thrown into the fire immediately," Ghee said. "You get your playbook the night before and you have to learn it. . You have to learn the techniques, learn the way they talk. There's a huge learning curve for an NFL player. My first few weeks were just a shock. I tried to play catch-up as fast as I can. I finally caught up by the end of camp, but by the end of camp it's too late. They're looking for starters who can help them right now."
Though he was waived and signed onto the team's practice squad last year, the Bengals promoted him to the 53-man roster following Leon Hall's knee injury that placed him on Injured Reserve. Yet of the seven games he played last season, as a special teams player, Ghee only took part in two defensive snaps last year.
Somehow this year is different. During last month's offseason workouts, Ghee suspiciously dropped his name into what figures as an extremely competitive position battle at cornerback.
"I’m not just competing for a spot – I’m trying to play," said Ghee. "I’m trying to earn a starting position on this team."
Even A.J. Green was impressed last month, saying:
"Ghee is out there competing every day and he’s one of the best corners that we have here. I feel like this year is going to be his year. I feel like he’s healthier and he’s playing fast."
More importantly is Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who is noticing a completely healthy and competitive Ghee putting together great workouts.
"He’s been in that redshirt mode unfortunately because of injuries," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He obviously has had a good offseason training before he came back to be with us, and he’s really had an outstanding nine practices."
And hell. How can you write off a guy that can pancake like this?