Earning his stripes

Rashad Jeanty. (SUN/Darryl Dyck)

Rashad Jeanty. (SUN/Darryl Dyck)

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Rashad Jeanty is hoping to start a lucrative new journey in his life today.

The former Edmonton Eskimo defensive end will be on the field tonight for the first practice session of main training camp for the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I am feeling great," he exclaimed from the Chicago airport late yesterday afternoon as he was waiting to board a flight to Cincinnati.

"The mini camps we had were a big plus as far as trying to learn the (defensive) system.

"I still have a long way to go to learn the system ... but I'm looking forward to getting on the field."

At stake during training camp and a four-game exhibition schedule is a very enticing NFL contract, likely worth in the neighbourhood of $240,000 US - a far cry from the $70,000 he earned with the Edmonton Eskimos last year.

And the 23-year-old Florida native would be playing out his option year with the Eskimos right now if he hadn't signed a free-agent deal in Cincinnati during the winter.

IMPRESSED LEWIS

He impressed Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis in the middle of January at a tryout workout, sparking the contract offer - and he continued to turn heads with the Cincinnati coaching staff this spring through mini camps.

"They are saying for a guy that has played defensive end all his life and now switching positions," continued Jeanty, "I am doing pretty well for figuring out things."

At 6-2 and 245 pounds, Jeanty has been moved to strong-side linebacker.

Not surprisingly, he's confident heading into camp, but knows it could be a road littered with political potholes.

"Sometimes it doesn't matter how confident you are because the business side (of the sport) might shoot you in the foot," he explained.

"If there is a guy that is not better than you but he is a draft pick and they have invested more in a guy, they might want to give that guy more (of a shot).

"But you just have to go out there and perform and try to make the decision as hard as possible for the coaches to cut you."

THIRD ON DEPTH CHART

Jeanty is currently listed third on the SAM-linebacker depth chart and appears to be in for a tough fight behind David Pollack and Hannibal Navies.

Pollack was the Bengals' first-round pick last year and finished second on the team in sacks.

Navies is an eight-year NFL veteran.

After two weeks of practices at the Bengals' training-camp facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, the club will play its first pre-season game against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 13 on national TV in the U.S. on NBC.

The game could feature Jeanty battling former CFLer Jesse Lumsden, who is with the Redskins.

But like Lumsden, if Jeanty is cut in the NFL this year, his rights revert to the CFL.

And Jeanty is more than willing to return to Edmonton.

"It's the best organization in the CFL, so if I got released I would be more than happy (to come back). The next day I (would be) ready to go (to Edmonton)."

The Bengals have to declare their official roster to start the regular season in early September.

FINISH LINES: With eight sacks in 14 games last year, Jeanty was a main part of the Eskimo defensive line and is definitely missed this year.

But he has faith in his old teammates.

"I am on the Internet every other day (following the Esks)," he said. "Sometimes (a team) struggles at the beginning of the season and as things go, you pick things up.

"It is a long season and I'm confident in the team."


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