Sporting a mohawk and wearing jersey No. 53, linebacker Michael Boley was on the field for practice Wednesday one day after signing a free-agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The nine-year veteran was released by the New York Giants in February, and he said he has been waiting for another opportunity.
“Not being with anybody throughout the offseason and training camp, it’s been a long process,” Boley said. “It’s having to sit back and pretty much just play the waiting game. It’s definitely been a journey.”
Boley was in Cincinnati for a tryout Sept. 10, but the team did not sign him until Tuesday.
“We kind of knew a few weeks ago we were running a little thin at linebacker, so we just decided in case things happen we need to be prepared,” said defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who coached Boley in Atlanta in 2007.
Boley’s best fit is as an outside linebacker, making him a solid insurance policy for starter Vontaze Burfict, who suffered a neck injury Sunday and was limited in practice Wednesday.
“He’s a great athlete, and he’s played a lot of NFL football,” Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said of Boley, who has appeared in 121 NFL games with 102 starts. “It gives us another opportunity, as he moves forward and learns everything we’re doing inside out, to plug in and give us another athletic guy on the field defensively.”
Boley said he didn’t work out for any other teams before or after his Sept. 10 tryout in Cincinnati, and he admitted he has a way to go before he’s in football shape.
“My conditioning is what it is,” he said. “I tell people all the time, nothing gets you in shape for football like playing football. So you can do as many sprints and stuff as you want in the offseason, but until you get on the field, that’s the true test of your conditioning.”
Boley led the Giants in tackles with 10 in their Super Bowl XLVI victory against New England two years ago. The Southern Mississippi product has 9.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, eight inteceptions and 40 passes defended in his career, along with the added bonus of a working knowledge of Zimmer’s system.
“He had some good coverage ability and he blitzed OK,” Zimmer said when asked what he remembered about Boley from 2007. “We gave him a lot of responsibility.”
Injury update: Bengals safety Reggie Nelson was back at practice, albeit in limited fashion, after missing Sunday’s game in Cleveland with a hamstring injury.
Cornerbacks Leon Hall and Dre Kirkpatrick, who also missed the Browns game with hamstring injuries, did not practice, nor did defensive end Michael Johnson (concussion) or guard Mike Pollak (knee).
Johnson finished the game Sunday before the concussion was diagnosed.
“He came to the trainers after the (Cleveland) game and reported symptoms, and they determined he had been concussed,” Bengals spokesman Jack Brennan said.
Stat sheet: Defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been credited with a blocked field goal after a review of the film showed he got a hand on Cleveland kicker Billy Cundiff’s 49-yard field attempt at the end of the first half.
It is the first blocked kick of Dunlap’s career.
The league also made a scoring change on the Browns onside kick. Bengals safety George Iloka fell on the ball and was credited with a kick return, but that has been reversed because the ball traveled fewer than 19 yards and the play is simply scored as an unreturned kick.