Former Gael to stay in NFL

Lineman Matt O’Donnell made the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad

Journal File Photo

The Cincinnati Bengals are keeping Matt O’Donnell. The NFL team announced Sunday that the former Gaels lineman would join their practice squad for the upcoming season. O’Donnell has been with the organization since training camp opened on July 30. The Bengals chose not to include O’Donnell as a part of their 53-man roster when making final cuts on Sept. 4. But the team informed him that he would be a member of the practice squad after he cleared waivers this week.

Players cut from a team’s final roster must go through the waiver wire system before they are allowed to sign on as members of practice squad. The system allows other NFL teams to pick up athletes that failed to make a roster.

O’Donnell said he sees a spot on the practice squad as a stepping stone to an NFL team.

“With the practice squad I could always be one injury from cracking the 53-man roster sometime later in the year or possibly within the next few weeks,” he said.

O’Donnell also said regular training in an NFL environment is the best way to improve.

“I want to improve my game overall,” he said. “Pass blocking, run blocking, anything I can do to crack the roster.”

O’Donnell’s route to the Bengals this summer started with his highly-publicized decision to skip out on an opportunity with the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Roughriders drafted O’Donnell 15th overall in the CFL entry draft earlier this year, but the former Gael didn’t report to the team’s rookie camp in June.

Instead, he attended tryouts with the National Basketball Association’s Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics. His agent, Jonathan Hardaway, marketed O’Donnell as a big man for basketball franchises based off his CFL combine results. The 22-year old hadn’t played basketball since high school.

O’Donnell said he doesn’t have aspirations for the NBA, adding that it was helpful from a fitness standpoint.

“Playing basketball, you have to be really athletic, flexible and strong. All the skills are transferable,” he said.

The Bengals signed O’Donnell less than 24 hours after the NFL lockout ended on July 25. He played in three games for the team during the preseason.

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