When the Bengals signed restricted free agent tight end Ben Utecht to a three-year offer sheet before the 2008 season, there was a chorus of fans singing "finally" after the Indianapolis Colts elected not to match. Cincinnati had just signed a tight end with the potential to stretch the field. Yet the Bengals in 2008 lost Carson Palmer for 12 games and Utecht was virtually negligible in a defunct passing offense that was highlighted with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a) running for his life with poor pass protection or b) freaking out for no reason and abandoning the pocket entirely (or all of the above).
In ten games played with the Bengals in 2008, Utecht caught 16 passes for 123 yards receiving. Palmer's eventual rehabilitation, Cedric Benson's encouraging tale of redemption translating onto the field brought a sense of encouragement for a team that finished 2008 with only four wins.
Unfortunately for Utecht, he suffered a major concussion that forced him to the hospital early during training camp. Utecht never played another down after the Bengals released him with an injury settlement on November 17, 2009. It was his fifth documented concussion, the straw that broke the camel's back, if you will.
For his part Utecht went on to start a new career as a recording artist, but the concussions linger. During an interview with the Associated Press, the former Bengals and Colts tight end admits that there are experiences during his life that he no longer remembers.
"I went to a dear friend's wedding, and I was seeing him again. We're at the house talking about it and I ask, 'Why I wasn't able to be at your wedding, was I in training camp at the time?' And they give me a funny look and say: 'Are you serious?' The next thing, they pull out a photo book and there I am in a tux, singing. To this day I really don't remember any of it. That's just one example."
Utecht, the report says, isn't part of the lawsuits brought against the NFL by over 1,000 former players (though he probably deserves it as much as anyone if/when there's a settlement).
What even struck out more in the report is that Utecht currently has a grievance against the Bengals over his release in 2009 (which provides very little detail).
"It is one of the longest grievances in the history of the NFL," Utecht said, declining to get into specifics until it's resolved. "It's getting really frustrating that this is taking so long."
To be honest we were somewhat unaware of this -- mostly because we had assumed the injury settlement resolved lingering or potential grievances against the team (though that's mostly a method to ensure the team recoups most of their money).