The last thing Bengals coach Marvin Lewis needed is for his No. 1 pick to find his name on the injured list.
Andre Smith, the 335-pound offensive tackle from Alabama, had ended his holdout two days ago, so what happened Monday as the Bengals coaching staff ran Smith through his first day of drills? He fractured his right foot. Millions of dollars worth of uncertain potential will be collecting his first couple of paychecks while standing on the Bengals sidelines. Talk about bad breaks! For Lewis, whose Bengals went 4-11-1 last season in the tough, physical AFC North, he couldn’t have had worse luck had he been in Las Vegas playing a rigged game of craps. He watched as team officials haggled for months with Smith’s agent, trying to cobble an agreement that would befit a No. 6 overall pick. Well, $21 million of guaranteed money got Smith’s signature on an NFL contract. The money also got him into training camp – for about half a day. The easy thing to say was that Smith, a player prone to let his body turn into a tub of lard, wasn’t in the best of shape for hard drills of any sort. But with the season nearing, Lewis wasn’t in any position to ease Smith into the team's offensive strategy. Even if that had been possible, Smith might still have gone down. For injuries are as much a part of football as offensive holding. Lewis seems to have had more than his share of ’em (think Carson Palmer). But what happened to Smith came at the worst of times. His injury, though not season-threatening, shows the folly of lavishing mega-millions on football players who haven’t played a single game. Those dollars should be going to players who have been in the trenches and produced -- players who have put their careers at risk in more than a practice drill. Don’t blame Smith for tying up cap money without having contributed a thing to the Bengals. The problem is a system that overvalues potential to the detriment of performance. How do his teammates, some of whom earn a fraction of what he does, accept Smith on the sidelines for more weeks as they prepare to open the '09 season? This can’t sit right with many of them.
Quick hits: Caution can be a good thing, but will Browns coach Eric Mangini pick between Derek Anderson and Brady Quinn before the turn of the next century? Mangini has plenty of other worries to address, so pick somebody, coach!
- With Smith signed, what does that mean for wide receiver Michael Crabtree and the 49ers? Crabtree has threatened to sit out the season, but that's as stupid as picking the Browns, the Raiders or the Lions to win the Super Bowl. Dan Wetzel, a writer for Yahoo! Sports, called Crabtree's threat "ground-breaking, if intellectually bankrupt." I call his threat moronic.
- Is anybody as curious as I am about Eagles coach Andy Reid's plans for Michael Vick? No, I'm not suggesting that Vick is Donovan McNabb's heir-in-waiting, but I have to wonder how Vick fits into Reid's offensive scheme. The answer to that might not reveal itself until Commissioner Roger Goodell clear Vick to play.
- Should Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora be embarrassed? Darn right he should. To walk out on his teammates is the kind of childishness you expect from a high schooler, not a two-time Pro Bowler. Yes, Umenyiora said he was sorry. Yet that doesn't excuse an act that's impossible to explain to fans, teammates and even to himself. Grow up, dude!
- Coach Jim Caldwell can't expect to make Colts fans forget Tony Dungy. Vince Lombardi might not be able to do that. But Caldwell won't have to make fans think of him as the second coming of Dungy; Caldwell just needs to be himself, which means giving the veterans a different voice to listen to.