Deuce Lutui should have been a Bengal, presumably starting on an offensive line that was about to take on the Cardinals Christmas weekend.
Instead, the veteran guard had one of the crazy journeys of the lockout-shortened offseason, agreeing to a contract with Cincinnati only to have the deal voided because of his weight and ending up back in Arizona as a backup all season to
“This year has been a big-time difference for me,” Lutui said. “This is the first time I have seen football on game day (as a spectator) on any level. I’ve always been a starter. This is an experience and a learning curve for me. However, I am maximizing the opportunity.”
Lutui said that means going into the offseason – in which he will be a free agent again – in shape. He said he has hired a “mental coach” which has put him in a better spot than he ever has been previously, although he knows battling his weight will still be a “challenge.”
It cost him in Cincinnati. Normally, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said, a player comes in for a visit and takes a physical before the contract comes down. In a compressed offseason, however, everything was speeded up, and that included coming to an agreement with Lutui before everything was cleared.
“Sometimes this year the cart got before the horse, and in this case, they made it, I guess, to a contract before,” Lewis said. “But they were always contingent on the players passing physicals, and I think it was common around the league that some guys passed and some guys didn’t. A lot of times doctors that are familiar with their own player will be a little bit more accepting on certain conditions a player has.”
Lutui had signed a two-year contract with Cincinnati reportedly worth more than $8 million, with $5 million coming in 2011. After the deal collapsed, he returned to the Cards, with a one-year salary of $950,000 and a backup role behind Hadnot. He has not played on offense yet this season.
His weight was a concern for the Cards when he came back, but coach Ken Whisenhunt said Lutui has done a good job, remains a vocal personality for his teammates, and is ready to play if needed.
“I feel a lot better about Deuce now than I did earlier in the year, when he was struggling to get (his weight) down and it was a weekly battle,” Whisenhunt said. “He’s done a very good job the last four or five weeks about being consistent with his weight. That’s what we needed to see.”
Lutui said he thinks it will help not playing this season in the sense his body hasn’t been beaten up, and that he can still see himself “in a good situation” for 2012. Whether that means in Arizona or another attempt to go elsewhere is to be determined, but Lutui is optimistic.
“I think I have been in the best mental and physical shape I have been in in a long time,” Lutui said. “Having to watch the offense and watch them battle, I’ve been taking this time to mentally and physically prepare for the offseason.
“Going into the offseason in this kind of shape, it’s an advantage in free agency, an advantage for my career.”
PORTER’S SEASON OVER
“At this point, we just felt like it wasn’t fair for Joey from where he is in his rehab to be able to play,” Whisenhunt said. “We have other issues on the roster that we want to look at and make sure we get bodies, because this time of year we have a lot of guys that are nicked up. It was really more about that.”
The move allowed the Cards to promote outside linebacker
RUNNING BACKS AILING
Three of the Cardinals’ four running backs were listed on the injury report Wednesday, necessitating Powell’s signing.
Gimpy right tackle
Five others were also limited: Quarterback
For the Bengals, wide receiver A.J. Green returned to practice on a limited basis after his bad shoulder sprain and he continues to insist he will play. Tackle Andre Whitworth (knee) and wide receiver Andre Caldwell (groin) sat out.