NFL Notebook

Bengals, Smith agree on deal

New Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who later left the game with an injured finger, delivers a completion against the Bears. New Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who later left the game with an injured finger, delivers a completion against the Bears. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)
Associated Press / August 31, 2009

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Offensive tackle Andre Smith signed a contract yesterday with the Cincinnati Bengals, ending an impasse that dragged on a month into the preseason.

The Bengals originally planned to have Smith start at right tackle, but he has missed all three preseason games. He was in Cincinnati and agreed to the deal shortly before the start of a late-afternoon practice.

The Bengals finish their preseason schedule with a home game against Indianapolis on Thursday. It’s unclear whether the rookie will be ready to play in that game.

“We’ll ease him into practice, see where his conditioning level is, and see where he is this week,’’ coach Marvin Lewis said. “We haven’t made a decision about Thursday and won’t know until after Wednesday.’’

Smith, the sixth pick overall, was the highest unsigned pick with one week left in the preseason. The Bengals had insisted on paying him less than a player taken later in the draft, Oakland’s Darrius Heyward-Bey, leading to the impasse.

Smith’s contract leaves Michael Crabtree, drafted by San Francisco with the 10th pick, as the only first-round selection yet to sign.

The four-year deal includes $21 million guaranteed. The team has an option after the 2010 season that would turn it into a six-year deal that includes $29.5 million guaranteed. Heyward-Bey got a five-year deal with $23.5 million guaranteed from the Raiders.

Smith participated in the afternoon practice, doing some drills with other linemen during the portion of the workout open to the media.

“It was difficult just sitting there waiting. I’m eager to get back to football,’’ Smith said after practice. “I don’t feel like I’m that far behind. There’s a difference between workout shape and football shape. I’m ready to get back into football shape.’’

Chiefs silent on Cassel
The winless and wounded Kansas City Chiefs launched a short work week while awaiting medical tests on quarterback Matt Cassel and cornerback Brandon Flowers. Cassel limped off the field and into the locker room after being sacked on the third play of Saturday night’s 14-10 loss to Seattle, and the extent of his injury was uncertain. The same was true for Flowers, who returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown before hurting his shoulder early in the first half. Wide receiver Devard Darling also was helped to the sideline in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. Coach Todd Haley said he would discuss the injuries “at a later date.’’ A team spokesman said there might be additional information following a practice today . . . The Eagles are changing their starting middle linebacker two weeks before the start of the regular season. Omar Gaither is taking over for Joe Mays. Mays had replaced Stewart Bradley, who is out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Gaither was the starter in 2007 . . . The Jets waived former Harvard quarterback Chris Pizzotti.

Cutler haunts Broncos
Jay Cutler, who forced a blockbuster trade out of Denver last spring, returned to Invesco Field last night and led his new team to a 27-17 exhibition win over the Broncos. Cutler, who was 15 of 21 for 144 yards in the first half, disregarded the thousands of hecklers in leading Chicago on three scoring drives, capped by a 12-play, 98-yarder just before halftime that gave the Bears a 17-3 lead. Broncos rookie coach Josh McDaniels had a distressing home debut, as did Denver’s new quarterback, Kyle Orton, who gashed his right index finger. Orton left in the second quarter after cutting his finger on a helmet. Orton, who was 12 for 16 for 96 yards when he got hurt, was taken to the locker room and all the Broncos would say about it was that he had “an upper extremity injury and was questionable’’ to return . . . Rams quarterback Marc Bulger threw passes in a side session at practice for the first time since fracturing the pinky on his throwing hand Aug. 17

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