Veteran center signed as insurance

Originally Published: September 16, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Relegated to using a practice squad player to snap for the first-unit offense, the Cincinnati Bengals have addressed an offensive line thinned by injuries by signing veteran center Jerry Fontenot to a one-year contract.

Fontenot, a 15-year veteran with 189 regular-season starts on his résumé, was released by the New Orleans Saints earlier this month when rosters were reduced to 53 players. He started in all 16 games for the Saints last season.

Cincinnati has been forced to use practice squad player Mike Mabry, signed less than a week ago, as its No. 1 center during practices this week because both Rich Braham and Larry Moore are nursing knee injuries.

Braham, the starter, is listed as probable for Sunday's game against Miami and, if he continues to make progress, likely will start. Moore's injury is the more serious of the two, and he is listed as doubtful on the league injury report. Team officials do not believe Moore will play this week.

By signing Fontenot, who will receive a salary of $715,294 -- the minimum of $760,000 prorated over the remainder of the schedule -- the Bengals secured for themselves a player who won't take long to assimilate the basics of the offense. Fontenot arrived in Cincinnati following the Thursday morning walk-through, and was to work in the afternoon full-scale practice.

The Bengals will have to release a player to create a roster spot for him.

Fontenot, 37, rebuffed offers from other teams as an unrestricted free agent this summer, as he had done a year ago as well, and re-signed with New Orleans because he believed the Saints were a potential Super Bowl contender. But unlike past years, Fontenot went to camp as a backup this season, with right guard LeCharles Bentley moving over to center, and the Saints opted to keep some younger reserves.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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