CINCINNATI – For Bengals rookie long snapper Mike Windt, his entrance onto the practice fields Tuesday was the first time he’d worked out with his teammates in a month. He hadn’t been around for any of the team’s OTA practices, and for a free agent who’s competing with an established LS and an incumbent starter in Clark Harris, Windt’s absence couldn’t have been a comforting feeling for the rookie.
It wasn’t his fault, though.
Because the academic schedule of the college he attended, the University of Cincinnati, remains on the quarter system and since a rookie can’t practice with his new team until his class has gone through graduation ceremonies, Windt hadn’t been on the field since rookie camp in May.
Windt, of course, isn’t the only one.
Titans RB LeGarrette Blount (Oregon) and CB Alterraun Verner (UCLA) couldn’t practice until Monday, and Chargers LB Donald Butler also didn’t take the field until Monday.
Yet, Windt doesn’t feel he’s at a disadvantage.
“The quarter system screws us over,” Windt told me Tuesday after Cincinnati’s morning practice. “But I don’t feel I’m behind the team. I’m caught up with everything I need to learn. During rookie camp, (special teams coach Darrin Simmons) taught me everything I needed to learn that I’d miss at OTAs. The only day they had without me was the day I got back here on June 10. I feel right, but there are little details you’re rusty on when you don’t do it for a month.”
Windt doesn’t have the same luxury of former and current teammate, punter Kevin Huber. Last year, Huber – who also played at the University of Cincinnati and is now a second-year kicker for the Bengals – couldn’t start until late. The difference, though, is that Huber didn’t have any competition for the punter spot.
“Yeah, but competition brings out the best in everybody,” Windt said. “I’m happy that I’m competing. If I wasn’t competing, I’m not saying I wouldn’t put my 100 percent out. But when you’re competing, you’re putting out 120 percent instead of 100.”
Since he couldn’t practice, Butler spent his time studying the playbook in order to keep his mind fresh.
“My guys have been down here working hard and it’s been killing me that I haven’t been able to work with them,” Butler was quoted as saying on the blog, Chargers Gab . “The biggest thing is, you’ve got to open your eyes and ears more at this level, because if you don’t hear something, you’re going to be a step behind and then you’re out of the play.”
Blount, meanwhile, simply tried to keep himself in the best physical shape as possible.
“I know I’m further behind,’’ Blount told the Tennessean . “I was just hoping to be in good enough shape to at least maintain the first few days, and I am. The only thing is that the sun drains the energy quick.”
Although it might seem like Windt would have fallen behind the more-experienced Harris, that’s not how he’s approaching the rest of mini-camp.
“I don’t think there’s an advantage or a disadvantage,” he said. “I learned the same stuff he’s learned. It was just a different timeline. When I learned it, he wasn’t here. When he learned it, I wasn’t there. Now, it’s just play football. Snap the damn ball and see what you’ve got in you.”
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