What a year for Andre Smith. The world is going great. Discussions are plentiful with Smith possibly being first overall pick early in the 2008 college football season. Definitely the best offensive tackle. He proved it several times throughout the season.
Then after "improper dealings" with an agent, he was suspended during the 2009 Sugar Bowl -- a game Alabama lost 31-17 to Utah, largely because Alabama recorded only 31 yards rushing. Several weeks later, he bailed at the NFL combine and neither he nor his agent decided to tell the NFL of the sudden departure. Not only that, but it was reported that his interviews with teams went terribly bad. Alabama's Pro Day didn't help, running a 5.23 40-yard dash and putting up 225 pounds on the bench press only 19 times. However that day is more known for Smith running without his shirt, which will live in our minds forever. Not live. Burnt.
The Bengals still took a chance on him, drafting him sixth overall. Bengals fans knew it was critical that the team rebuild the offensive line after the unit was largely to blame for the league's worst offense. Smith's potential, and what he did at Alabama, made him such an interesting choice, that most Bengals fans accepted it. We reasoned that if he reaches his potential, he could be awesome. However, the if part of the statement was always said with reservation.
Training Camp started. Smith was nowhere to be seen. Negotiations between the Bengals and Smith's representative, Alvin Keels, lasted 30 days before the rookie made his first appearance with the team on Sunday.
Then as Bengals (or generally speaking, Cincinnati) karma has it, Smith fractures his foot. Marvin Lewis says:
"Andre suffered a small fracture in his left foot during a non-contact drill. Our medical staff tells me the injury will not require surgery. It's too soon to closely predict how long it will be before he can return to practice. But it looks like he's going to miss a few weeks."
Let's take Lewis at his word. If Smith is out for a few weeks, then you have to realistically expect that Smith's entire development period is thus pushed back. At best, he studies the team's playbook and watches film and learns to be a professional athlete through the tutelage of guys like Andrew Whitworth and Bobbie Williams. At worst, he doesn't. Furthermore, if the expectation was that Andre Smith would start after 4-6 weeks, now you have to realistically believe that he could be out as late as the tenth game of the season. Think about it for a minute. When he comes back after "a few weeks", he's still going to be on Day Four of his NFL career. Tenth could be a bit long, but it's not without the realm of possibility. It just depends on when he comes back. NFL Network's Jason La Canfora says 7-10 days. "Smith’s injury is very similar to the stress fracture suffered by Broncos RB LaMont Jordan, who rested his foot for a week and then returned to practice."
However, still the wild card in this is Anthony Collins. If he performs well and gives the team no urgency to push Smith into the lineup, then it's possible Smith doesn't start at all this season and plays in big packages, where he lines up at Tight End (ala Levi Jones in 2002).
You just have to smile, don't you? That damned Bengals karma still hovers over our lovely little town. Then again, it's not like Smith's karma has been much better.