Bengals first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi 'half a mountain' from playing

CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Bengals knew way back in the spring when they selected Cedric Ogbuehi with their first-round draft pick that it would be a while before they actually saw him compete in any kind of capacity.

That day finally came Tuesday.

Cleared to practice for the first time since he tore an ACL in his college bowl game last December, the rookie offensive tackle had a couple of "wow" moments in his first NFL workout, according to his position coach. But as much as Ogbuehi flashed at both left and right tackle, he still has a long way to go before he ends up playing in a game.

How far away is him from that happening?

"Half a mountain, probably," offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. "I don't know. We'll take it one day at a time. [Tuesday] was a good first step.

"He didn't shut out Bruce Smith. He didn't do anything that he's being enshrined for. It was his first day. It was a good day."

The Bengals didn't practice Wednesday but will return to action with Ogbuehi on Thursday.

Alexander wasn't alone in trying to exercise patience as it pertained to Ogbuehi's future. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson touched on the same thing, but he didn't rule out the possibility of the rookie playing at some point this season.

"You never put parameters on players," Jackson said. "You just never know what they are, how they grow, what they know and what they can bring. We drafted the guy for a reason. We'll see where we are when the time comes. I'm sure the organization will make the best decision for the team.

"If they give him to me, we'll find a place for him."

Officially, the Bengals have three weeks to activate Ogbeuhi. Like linebacker Sean Porter, who also was cleared to practice Tuesday after his own stint on a preseason injury list, Ogbuehi can practice and participate in team activities for another 20 days before the Bengals have to figure out whether to put him on the 53-man roster. If they decide against doing that, he must revert to the season-ending injured reserve. That's certainly a possibility, considering the Bengals are deep at the offensive tackle position with Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Eric Winston and Jake Fisher all currently playing the position.

But injuries can happen, and there's nothing like having an insurance policy on the offensive line, particularly the closer a team gets to the postseason.

"I don't think you can ever have too many good players. I'll never subscribe to that theory," Jackson said. "Once they say, 'They're yours,' if they can play, play them."

Alexander was pleased with Ogbuehi's mental approach to Tuesday's practice. With the Bengals going through competitive situations against the defense, and not only a set of scripted plays, Ogbuehi had to think on his feet and respond to an uptempo intensity.

"He hung in there and did a good job," Alexander said. "I watch him and I try to give him one or two words that might trigger him to improve or whatever. He looks back after every play, which they all do."

While there is an expected learning curve associated with Ogbuehi's transition to the field, he may not always have to rely solely on the mental processes of playing his position. He already has started showing flashes of the athleticism that impressed coaches when they watched him on film during the pre-draft evaluation process.

"The guy's loaded with football talent; not just athletic ability, but football talent, which is athletic ability and football skill," Alexander said.