Bengals center Kyle Cook welcomes the competition

USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Cook has been the starting center since 2009, being part of a team that's made the postseason in three of four years. Now Cook is facing his strongest competition to date with Trevor Robinson.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis started it.

Impressed with how Trevor Robinson performed during the 2012 regular season, Lewis told reporters during February's NFL Combine that there will be a competition between the two players.

Unfortunately, the competition isn't going to start this week when the Cincinnati Bengals gather for mandatory minicamp. Cook has doing all first-team work during OTAs and is expected to continue in that role this week. Bengals rookie T.J. Johnson, selected in the seventh round during the 2013 NFL draft, will play that "we need a body" role, though Robinson's injury offers a benefit to Johnson that he otherwise wouldn't have had.

Cook welcomes the competition.

"If anything it is one more challenge for me to overcome. You do whatever you can to make this team and yourself better," Cook tells Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I don’t have a say, but if it is up to the way I play, perform and lead I would like to think I will still be here."

Cook suffered a high ankle sprain during the preseason last year and if not for the timely creation of the IR/designated to return classification, he would have missed the entire season. Jeff Faine, immediately signed off the streets, opened the regular season in his place, starting the first seven games. A hamstring injury began affecting his playing time midway through the season and he was eventually benched for Robinson, who started the next seven games (playing 13 games overall).

When the season entered December, Cook was placed on the active 53-man roster, which forced the team to waive wide receiver Armon Binns. Soon after that, Faine was released to make room for Josh Brown who was substituting for the injured Mike Nugent who remained on the 53-man roster.

Despite Cook not being 100 percent with a high ankle sprain, he was called to start against the Pittsburgh Steelers and finished the season in the starting lineup. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson was the better performer scoring an overall grade of -1.8 while Cook scored -5.6. On the other hand, if you disregard his performance against the Steelers, Cook's overall score collapses to even. On the other hand, Robinson also scored poorly against the Steelers in week seven.

Additionally Cook's performance may have been somewhat influenced from his preseason ankle injury that wasn't fully healed; something that the team doesn't have to worry about now.

"He’s had a chance now to let the ankle totally heal," Lewis told the Enquirer. "You move forward and it’s been good for him to get back out and to get to working at football. Now we’ve got to go do the next spots when we get to August."

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