Bengals tackles Whitworth, Smith wondering what's next

CINCINNATI (AP) As soon as the Bengals' draft picks were announced, team captain Andrew Whitworth started getting texts and tweets.

Concerned teammates wondered what was going on. So did many Bengals fans. Was Cincinnati drafting someone to replace him as the starting left tackle? Why did the club take offensive tackles with its first two picks in the draft?

Several days later, Whitworth still doesn't know what to say.

The 10th-year veteran was surprised - just like everyone else - when the Bengals took Cedric Ogbuehi (oh-BWAY'-hee) in the first round and Jake Fisher in the second. Ogbuehi is still recovering from knee surgery, making him more of a down-the-road option.

Whitworth is entering the final season on his contract. He has reached out to the team several times to try to get a read on where he stands in its plans. So far, he's heard nothing.

''I've tried to find out where I am,'' he said Monday. ''Not about the (contract) extension as much as: What's my status? I'm sure my status is I'll be the left tackle this year; I'd be shocked if I wasn't. Outside of that, I don't really know, so I don't really have an answer for you.''

Right tackle Andre Smith is entering the final year on a three-year deal and doesn't know what to make of the Bengals' decision to go for two tackles at the top of the draft.

''The starting five, they'll be out there, and I'm on the starting five,'' Smith said, referring to the line. ''Who knows where it may go? Just compete and don't worry about it.''

Whitworth has been the Bengals' leader and union representative for several years. During the NFL's lockout in 2011, he organized team workouts. On Saturday, he hosted a get-together for the offensive line at his home. Ogbuehi had to return home, but Fisher accepted an invitation and spent time talking to Whitworth about the NFL.

Whitworth said the team's refusal to discuss its plans with him makes it difficult for him to function as a leader.

''It's hard to do that when that feeling's not reciprocated, when really it's just a one-way street: `We'd like you to prepare two guys to be really good football players. We'd like you to be the leader of our football team, but we'd also like to have the best situation possible for us to talk to you when we want to,''' Whitworth said.

''It's a one-way street and not really top of the line in customer service there.''

Whitworth doesn't plan to change, but he'll be wondering what's going to happen next.

''I've mentored and been there for a lot of guys on this team,'' Whitworth said. ''Yeah, there's guys who are concerned. I'm concerned as well. There's nothing I can do about it. It's out of my hands.''

Notes: Smith did pushups Monday for the first time since surgery to repair a torn left triceps. He'll have to sit out the team's OTA workouts while rehabbing. ... Tight end Tyler Eifert said his right elbow has healed, but he's not fully recovered from shoulder surgery last season. Eifert can catch passes and run routes, but can't bump the left shoulder. He expects to be cleared for full workouts by training camp.

---

Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.