With key blockers out, Bengals linebacker switches to fullback

CINCINNATI -- So far, the big story out of the Cincinnati Bengals' organized team activities involves tight end Tyler Eifert and the injury that could force him to miss a couple of games at the start of the season.

The hope is that his rehab from a surgery that was conducted Wednesday will be fully wrapped up by training camp, and that he can return to action before the Bengals open the season at the New York Jets on Sept. 11.

But in case he isn't ready, where do the Bengals turn? We answered the Tyler Kroft pass-catching portion of that question earlier Wednesday morning. Second-year tight end Kroft's role would increase, as would opportunities for Bengals playmakers A.J. Green, Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. But what about on the blocking side of the tight end position? It appears the Bengals have that answered, too.

Perhaps it's ultimately unrelated, but it is hard to avoid drawing parallels with the timing of Eifert's surgery, the early OTA absence of H-back Ryan Hewitt and the appearance of time linebacker Jeff Luc at fullback during Tuesday's open OTA session.

A first-year player who spent part of last season on New Orleans' practice squad, Luc was signed by the Bengals as a free agent early in the offseason. He's one of many players simply hoping to make the roster. At the Bengals' rookie camp two weeks ago, he played the position he has occupied since his junior year of high school: linebacker.

But that changed Tuesday.

"I would say it was a mutual thing," Luc said of the decision to move him. "It's up to the coach to make the decision and it's up to me to go out and do the best I can. It was brought up to me and I said, 'Sure, whatever I can do to help the team.' I just want to win."

Wednesday afternoon, the Bengals also signed rookie free-agent fullback Andrew Bonnet (North Dakota State), giving them added backfield blocking depth.

One of Florida's top high school recruits at linebacker in 2010, Luc originally signed to play at Florida State. Among the first of then-new FSU coach Jimbo Fisher's recruits, he was considered the player who helped get Fisher's Seminoles off and running on the recruiting trail. Florida State won the national championship three years later. That same year, Luc completed a transfer to the University of Cincinnati, where he played linebacker for two seasons.

During Luc's recruitment, several schools, including Cincinnati, once viewed him as a tight end. As a high school sophomore, he turned heads there as both a blocker and receiver.

So maybe it shouldn't have been too alarming to see him on offense at Bengals practice. Besides, Hewitt's absence for an undisclosed injury, for now, also leaves an extra hole at the blocking positions. As the Bengals go through this part of their offseason practice schedule, why not test out a young player's versatility?

Luc isn't sure if the move will be permanent, but he is glad to have the opportunity to keep proving himself.

"I have an advantage [at fullback], because as a linebacker, I know what I don't like what a fullback would do to me," Luc said. "Now seeing it from a fullback perspective, I can really take advantage of that."

Luc's transition, so far, hasn't been too difficult.

"The fullback position is not as tough as the 'Mike' [linebacker]," Luc said. "The 'Mike,' you are the quarterback of the defense. With that being said, I've got one role. I've got to go block here from different formations, so I'm picking it up here and there. It's not as hard as people think it is."