CINCINNATI -- With a rash of starting offensive linemen on the sideline during Cincinnati Bengals OTAs, second-year guard Tanner Hawkinson is taking advantage of extra time to show his ability.
A fifth round pick in 2013, Hawkinson was running with the first team at guard this week.
Part of his promotion with the first team came because guard/center Mike Pollak is out, Clint Boling is recovering from ACL surgery and right tackle Andre Smith stood on the sideline.
That meant the starters were left tackle Andrew Whitworth, Hawkinson, Russell Bodine at center, Kevin Zeitler at left guard and Marshall Newhouse at right tackle.
The chance may be short-lived. But for Hawkinson, who added needed muscle during what amounted to a redshirt rookie season, was mostly inactive on game days and understands any opportunity must be taken seriously regardless of reason.
"It's exciting," Hawkinson said. "I can't necessarily worry about too much of what is going on with other people, but I just need to focus on myself and what I am doing and being sure I am on my assignments and playing to the best of my ability and trying to improve each day and not stay complacent. It is exciting, getting those reps, but I just got to focus on myself."
He has a long way to go and an uphill battle to scratch the starting lineup this year, but that depends on how much he improves. The team will get a better feel for that when they put on pads for camp.
"He obviously has tremendous quickness and athleticism," offensive line coach Paul Alexander said. "He can pull and do things in space and he's gotten a little stronger. He's had to grow up in terms of filling out with strength and maturity. He's a little better than he was last year. He just needs reps now."
Marvin Lewis wasn't thrilled with the national buzz that stemmed from a comment in a Sports Illustrated story regarding getting past the contract situation of Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler as it related -- or not -- to negotiations with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton.
"It was a non-statement and a non-point and a non-issue," Lewis said.
In what has been a calm offseason without major story lines emanating from PBS other than anticipation of a possible Dalton extension, those small morsels of information being blown up are as much a part of the offseason culture as practices in shorts.
"It's unfortunate that's where we are," Lewis said. "The buzz has nothing to do with winning football games come the fall. We just need to keep coming out here and building upon what we do every day."
Rookie running back Jeremy Hill spent much of last weekend in Los Angeles for the NFL's Rookie Premiere event along with quarterback and Bengals teammate A.J. McCarron. In all, 35 players from this year's rookie class were invited to the photo shoot.
The experience was eye-opening for Hill in regard to all the opportunities that can come about playing in the NFL.
"It was pretty fun," Hill said. "I got to meet up with some of my former teammates and some of the guys I knew from playing in college and from the Combine.
"It was good to meet with some of those people and have fun out on the field, but I'd rather be here working with the guys and working the playbook. It's just part of the rookie duties. Now it's back to work and I'm excited to get back in the groove of things."