Andre Smith and the Cincinnati Bengals made the decision to reunite earlier this offseason, in the wake of free agency departures from left tackle Andrew Whitworth and right guard Kevin Zeitler. The move was a questionable one, as the Bengals declined to re-sign Smith after 2015 due to inconsistencies on-the-field, coupled with the hope that young players could replace him. However, Smith seems to be coming at his second stint with the Bengals with a refreshing new attitude and an admirable goal.
Andre Smith says he wants to earn a captain's "C" on his jersey this season. Wants to be leader of offensive lineman room. #Bengals— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) April 17, 2017
In his first stint with the Bengals, Smith was never known as a locker room leader or the type of player who would embody the characteristics of a leader. In fact, one of his biggest criticisms ahead of the 2009 NFL Draft was his tendency to be lazy and passive. During the course of his first seven-year stint with the Bengals, he was rarely noted as making the effort to talk his teammates up or inspire confidence.
That said, if he is able to back up his talk about becoming a team captain, it would be fantastic for the Bengals. After losing Whitworth, an outspoken team leader to the Los Angeles Rams, there is a void in the offensive line room for a veteran captain who knows how to inspire and coach his teammates. As a veteran offensive lineman who was allowed to walk last offseason for a lack of on-field production, that is exactly the kind of role that can help him carve out a key niche on the Bengals’ roster and justify the Bengals’ decision to bring him back in the first place.
And while Smith served as the Bengals’ right tackle during his first stint in Cincinnati, he’s returning to play right guard and take over Zeitler’s role.
“Learning something new, that’s going to be the biggest change,” Smith told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s a position that is fresh, this being my ninth year it’s a fresh start at a new position so it’s actually something I’m looking forward to.”
In addition to making the effort to become a team leader this time around, Smith has quite a bit of work to do to prove his worth at right guard. At this point, he seems to be committed to making that switch a reality and acknowledged this week that right tackle is Jake Fisher’s role.
A switch to guard makes sense for Smith. He has always been fairly sizeable, even for an offensive tackle, and currently measures up at 6’4”, 325 pounds. Furthermore, he has always been criticized for being painfully slow as an offensive tackle, a position which requires a certain amount of athleticism to protect the entire edge. He is returning as a 30-year old veteran and isn’t getting any younger, so the guard position seems to make more long-term sense for his NFL future, especially with the Bengals already having a long-term plan at both tackle positions.
“Anything to prolong my career, anything to help myself value-wise,” Smith said. “I can play guard and tackle. I think Paul (Alexander) is a great teacher and I am eager to learn from him.”
Smith essentially defecting the right tackle spot to Fisher, a spot he has held for his entire NFL career, is a great step toward becoming a team leader. It takes a certain amount of focus on the success of the team and a player’s teammates to relinquish a role like that without a fight, which is the exact perspective a veteran like Smith needs to have. And, it truly sounds like he’s focussed on helping the team and proving his worth.
“Anything to help,” Smith said. “I want to bring value to myself and the team. It’s about working hard every day … Every day you have to bring your hard hat. I know I am going to bring that here.”
He will likely be asked to rely more on his strength and awareness as a guard, which has gotten him into trouble with holding penalties in the past. But, if he can keep focused on his and the team’s goals without worrying about whatever distractions might arise, there is hope that his second stint with the Bengals could be a very successful one.