Former Cincinnati Bengals offensive line coach Jim Turner never lost faith in Bobby Hart.
“Out of all my players, Bobby Hart is the most underappreciated player and the most picked-on player by everybody from the media to whoever wants to talk football,” Turner said of the Bengals’ right tackle in an interview with Sports Illustrated in September.
“It’s like every pressure we’ve ever had gets blamed on that kid. To me, nobody has put more time or effort into our offense, like in preparation for the season and understanding his weaknesses and in training and getting himself ready to play for the season.”
Of course, that faith is one of the big reasons why Turner is no longer with the team, and has been replaced by his predecessor, Frank Pollack.
Even still, Hart rewarded Turner’s faith by continuing to get better.
In 2018, Hart’s first season with the Bengals, he was nothing short of terrible. He allowed 10 sacks, committed 11 penalties and finished with a grade of 57.1, according to Pro Football Focus.
Hart showed a little improvement in 2019, allowing six sacks, being charged with seven penalties and finishing with a grade of 57.6.
Last year, Hart allowed four sacks and committed just three penalties. His overall grade of 66.3 was higher than Kevin Zeitler (65.9), the former first-round selection who was widely considered a success during his time with Cincinnati from 2012 to 2016 but is hitting the twilight of his career.
Probably because of that terrible first season, and because of issues he had with his former team, the New York Giants, that left some people saying that he was not a team player, Hart has never been very popular with the fans in Cincinnati.
But that did not stop the Bengals from signing Hart to a three-year, $16,150,000 contract in 2019 that included a $3,000,000 signing bonus and guaranteed money of $5,500,000.
And it did not stop Hart from always trying to be the best that he could be.
“I feel like just staying the course and persevering is the main thing,” he said. “I’m going to keep saying it’s perseverance. Not worrying about last week, just focusing on the now and just trying to get better as an individual and as a unit.”
Getting better is a focus of the Bengals as a whole in 2021, particularly when it comes to the offensive line. At this point, though, it seems unlikely that Hart will be a part of this effort.
The seventh-year pro carries a cap hit of $6,837,500 for 2021, with dead money of only $1,000,000, which means Cincinnati would save $5,837,500 against the cap by letting Hart go.
And with all of the Bengals’ needs, that certainly seems to be a good possibility.