Bengals get Mike Pollak snapping again

CINCINNATI -- When the Cincinnati Bengals released longtime center Kyle Cook about the time free agency was starting this offseason, it appeared Mike Pollak was going to get a shot to replace Cook.

Just as Cook was being let go, Pollak was being re-signed to a two-year deal. With no center with true starting experience on the roster, the Bengals figured to turn to Pollak. He was the elder statesman of the existing interior linemen, and had at least snapped a couple of times in garbage time.

But when training camp started late last month, he wasn't in the starting rotation. He was barely on the field, in fact, as he finished rehab from an offseason knee injury. When he did get a chance to practice, it was at left guard.

Three weeks later, he's making the move to center. The Bengals have him snapping again; albeit in a backup role for now.

"I just think coaches wanted to see me move around, get me healthy before they started moving me to [center]," Pollak said. "I'm continuing to work at it each day, get better each day. I still don't know what the overall plan is, but all I can do is control what I can do."

The seven-year veteran says his knee injury is healed.

The Bengals used their fourth-round pick in May on Russell Bodine, a strong, physical and smart center from North Carolina. Bodine has been the starting center, and the battle with Pollak for the starting job never materialized until these past few practices. Pollak didn't participate at all in the spring, continuing to rehab his knee. And despite some issues with snapping during the last workout of organized team activities in June, Bodine made a positive impression. If the rookie could correct his minor snapping issues and keep learning the system, he would be just fine, it appeared.

Those issues haven't faded, though. They have been a constant in training camp as he has sailed snaps either slightly wide or high for quarterbacks Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell. The bad snaps have become a point of emphasis for offensive coordinator Hue Jackson who vowed last week to get it fixed.

"We have other candidates," Jackson said last Tuesday. "We're a little banged up right now, so we'll keep working through it and coaching him up."

It was easy to assume Jackson was talking about backups Trevor Robinson and T.J. Johnson when he mentioned the other candidates. But when he mentioned how banged up the offensive line was, Pollak's name immediately came to mind.

Pollak has gotten more consistent activity in 11-on-11 drills in the third week of camp. He hasn't had a practice day off since before last Thursday's preseason opener at Kansas City, and since Friday has been working with the second-team offense at center.

He's entering practice with a clear mind, he said. If coaches want him at center one day or back at left guard the next, he's fine with whatever they want.

"All I can do is, I come out and ask where I am each day and see where they want me. Wherever that is, that's where I'm going to line up," Pollak said after Tuesday's practice. "Today I was playing center. Tomorrow, it may be different.

"Whatever can get me on the field or into a role to get on the field. I just want to play where I can. I'm later in my career. I know my days are numbered. As much as I can get in there, that's all I care about."