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Mike Windt begins his new career

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I walked into the Bengals locker room today, and who did I see toweling off just a few feet away from punter Kevin Huber's space? His old running buddy, long snapper Mike Windt - who signed a free agent deal with the Bengals last week and is attending the rookie camp this weekend.

 

For Windt, it's been a rough couple of months. It usually is for college long snappers looking to find their place in the NFL fraternity. The Bengals hadn't needed one for many years, but last year, Brad St. Louis broke down and Clark Harris took over his duties when St. Louis got released. Harris was fine last year, but that doesn't mean Windt doesn't have a chance to take that job playing for the hometown team.

 

For Windt, it's a two-man race to win the long snapper job. Why not him?

 

"It was a long process; it was a long couple months of not knowing where you're going to be," Windt said today after the Bengals morning practice. "I had a funny feeling that I'd end up here. I have a good relationship with (special teams coach Darrin) Simmons. He's taught me a lot already. I've only been here a day and a half and he's already taught me so much. Out of all the special teams coaches that talked to me, I just feel really comfortable with him. It's going to be a competition, but I feel comfortable with where I'm at. I just need to finish up on some detail things that Darrin will help me with."

 

All in all, Windt feels pretty lucky. He finished his eligibility at UC in time for the NFL's uncapped year. Which means, in some areas - like, say, long snapping - teams might be looking for a less expensive option. Windt could be that option.

 

"They might want to get younger and cheaper," Windt said. "There are long snappers out there making over $1 million a year. If a team thinks they can bring in somebody and pay them less, that's the big thing with the process. It is a good time to come out. I was a little bit lucky. It's better to come out this year than during the lockout (presumably this could happen before the 2011 season), like Jake Rogers. I don't know what's going to happen with that, but I'm happy for the opportunity I've got right now."

 

Windt plays a position most people don't notice, and most of the time, that's exactly what he wants. Before today, I don't think I ever interviewed him, because I never needed to ask him about what went wrong during a game. He was that good. But he also finds himself in a different spot than most of the other rookies coming out of college.

 

"You don't get the exposure everybody else gets," Windt said. "You have to be perfect. If you have anything wrong with you, you're not going to go anywhere. My whole concept when I started college was to be perfectly consistent. If you can shoot a ball back there in 0.5 (seconds), it doesn't matter if you're not consistent. If you're not accurate, you can't do anything with that. If it's off by a little bit, it's going to throw off the entire process."

 

There are two factors working in Windt's favor this summer. He's back to working with his old punter, Huber, and he's finally getting some on-hands coaching.

 

"Coach Simmons is with us every second of the practice," Huber said. "It just feels a lot better. It's better having the individual contact. I'm happy with that situation. It just makes you feel more comfortable when you're doing it. He teaches you the correct way to do it as compared to teaching yourself in college.

 

"(With Huber), there's trustworthiness. Through all the years, I know where Kevin wants the ball, and he trusts me that I'm going to get it there. I have for years. Chemistry between a punter and long snapper has to be positive. If you don't, it's like a center and quarterback not getting along.

 

"But if I can prove to them I'm perfectly consistent, I'll feel really good about myself. I had a good practice today, I'll watch film with coach, evaluate it and have another four good ones."


--Other sightings: Jacob Ramsey (who is still taking 18 credit hours of class) and Curtis Young have tryouts this weekend. Also, Kerry Coombs attended morning practice as well.


(UPDATED: 5:44 p.m.): Marvin Lewis' thoughts on Mike Windt:


"Mike's got a lot of latent. We've signed him already to a free agent contract. He has a great ability to snap the football - to long snap and short snap. He's been accomplished doing it there at UC. From watching him out there today, he has a lot of ability. He has great accuracy with it, great velocity with it and a great feel for it. He's going to get a good opportunity to prove if he can do it for us here."

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