The Bengals will have a lot of competition at linebacker when training camp opens in a few weeks. One backer who's grateful for just the chance to compete for a spot on the roster is Brandon Joiner.
If there is to be another Bengal who goes through a redemption story in the same manner Vontaze Burfict, Adam Jones, Cedric Benson, Reggie Nelson and other Bengals players have done over during the tenure of Marvin Lewis, it may be that of Joiner.
His journey to the NFL began shortly after the undrafted rookie linebacker signed with the Bengals in May of 2012, he was sentenced to three years in prison as a result of his involvement in 2007 robbery and felony drug charges he committed as an 18-year-old freshman at Texas A&M.
Even while Joiner was in prison, the Bengals showed support and a willingness to help him rehabilitate his image and his life one he was released:
At the time of his sentencing, the Bengals said Joiner's "positive actions during the past five years, including significant community service work, graduation from Arkansas State University and an unblemished subsequent behavior record" factored into their decision to support Joiner's opportunity to compete for a roster spot once he was released.
"The support made the time go by faster," Joiner said. "It's a spiritual, mental and physical drain. You have a lot of time to think about your life and where you're headed. Along the same time of it being a curse it was a blessing and now I have a great opportunity. When something is taken from you, you go get it and don't look back."
During his time in a Texas prison outside Dallas, Joiner got letters and phone messages of encouragement from linebackers coach Paul Guenther.
"I had him as a linebacker last year, Guenther said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. He's a really good guy. Really, this is his rookie year, really. He's getting better, he's improving. He's just trying to get the little things done right now for him to be efficient.
Joiner was paroled during the 2013 offseason, leaving him free to resume his football career. The Bengals retained his rights, and brought him to training camp in hopes he could compete for a spot on either the 53-man roster, or develop on the practice squad.
He was actually having a promising camp, and it looked as though he might make onto the practice squad, but if not, had done enough to likely earn an invite someone’s camp next year.
But then, a tron ACL in camp sidelined him for the entire year. Fully recovered and ready to hit the field, Joiner will once again try and earn a post on the 53-man roster, or at the very least, a spot on someone's practice squad.
"I needed that whole year just for the mental aspect, Joiner said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I am still picking up things here and there. I am still learning linebacker but I am still getting it. I'm better than where I was the year before."
Be sure to read Paul Dehner's full interview with Joiner, as well as the deleted scenes.