When Cincinnati announced that wide receiver James Wright would be placed on season-ending Injured Reserve after clearing waivers, it unexpectedly put the team's wide receiver roster into moderate chaos. A.J. Green, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu were obviously part of the narrative -- at least this year as all three are entering contract seasons. Provided Mario Alford didn't embarrass himself, he'd make the roster, especially as a special teamer with enough obsessive speed for Cincinnati to pull away from their two-year obsession with Onterio McCalebb.
Unfortunately Wright's knee, injured last November against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, didn't make enough progress during the offseason. Cincinnati ended his season before it began -- maybe his career if his knee is taking this long to recover -- before players reported to training camp in late July.
Cincinnati wanted to add another player, reportedly inviting veterans for a workout.
Greg Little, who posted six receptions for 69 yards receiving in six games played for the Bengals in 2014, was one of the players to visit Cincinnati. Curious, as it was, Cincinnati clearly didn't hold much favor with Little, who signed a two-year deal worth $1.39 million, during his initial stay in 2014. For example, during the Bengals' final eight games, including the team's forgetful Wild Card loss in Indianapolis, Little posted one reception... combined.
He was in trouble. And he knew it.
Head coach Marvin Lewis conducts exit interviews with his players following the final game of the season. Aware of his poor season and the precarious direction that his career was headed in, Little asked Lewis for another opportunity. "Give me a chance to have a training camp here," Little told Lewis. "I know how special I think the offense can be. I just want to be part of that."
Cincinnati announced his release on Feb. 27, 2015.
With Wright's injury fresh in their minds, Cincinnati signed Little to a one-year deal worth $745,000 this July -- it's what he would have earned this year had he not been released this past winter.
This time, there was a message, pointing out that this could be his last stop.
"He's in a good spot for his career;  years old," Lewis said. "This may be his last stop to get it done right. So he has to toe the line in every area.
"He has to do it day in and day out, week in and week out. That's important. There has to be some consistency. The quarterback has to be able to count on him, the receiver coach has to count on him, the offensive coordinator and the head coach and the special-teams coach, for everything we do around here."
Little heard the message.
Little led the Bengals with 145 yards receiving and Pro Football Focus ranked him as the team's best wide receiver and second-best offensive player of the preseason.
"He did what we asked him to do," Lewis said, via Bengals.com of Little, who earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Unlike last year, Little is accepting a role on special teams, which added stability to rocky career. "To come in and have an opportunity to really digest and learn the offense. He was able to participate in two different positions in the game in Indy last week and that was a big benefit to him and to us."
Lewis continue, "When James was lost to us we went out and got who we felt was the best player available and who we really felt did good things for us last year. If he could pick up where he left off and also be a contributor on special teams, which he did this preseason, then he could earn a job here. You have to take your hat off to him for really handling that and taking it and running with it."
It's like starting all over again and we'll see how Little does in his second attempt with the Bengals.