All Tony Pike wants is a chance – and he’s about to get one from his hometown team.
On Wednesday, the Bengals announced that Pike is among the unsigned players who will attend the team’s May 11-13 minicamp on a tryout basis. After spending the 2010 season as a backup with the Carolina Panthers, the 26-year-old quarterback missed all of last year after having elbow surgery.
“I’ve been back in Cincinnati rehabbing for a long time and the Bengals reached out to my agent with some questions about my health and when I was going to get back to 100%,” said Pike. “After that, it was just a matter of me getting healthy and the timing being right for the mini-camp. It’s an unbelievable opportunity. Growing up in Cincinnati and being a Bengals fan, it’s been a life-long dream to be a Bengal. For them to give me that opportunity to come into mini-camp and see what I can do means a lot.”
After leading the UC Bearcats to a perfect regular season and trip to the Sugar Bowl as a senior, Pike was selected by Carolina in the 6th round of the 2010 draft. Tony appeared in one regular season game as a rookie, going 6-for-12 for 47 yards in a loss to New Orleans.
But last July, Pike needed surgery to fix a nerve injury in his right elbow. When the first procedure didn’t correct the problem, the former Bearcat had a more extensive operation eight weeks ago.
“On the second surgery, they cut the muscle in my forearm and they tucked the nerve underneath the muscle,” said Pike. “Then they sewed the muscle back together to protect that nerve from moving around. It was a more painful procedure, but with my history at UC, it’s nothing that I haven’t been through before. The end result was a lot better than the first procedure, so I’m really happy.
“I saw (Cincinnati Reds) Dr. Kremchek here in Cincinnati and he said he does this surgery every year on pitchers here. He told me it’s something that pitchers come back stronger from and that’s how I feel right now.”
Pike broke his left arm in his junior and senior years at UC, but bounced back quickly to lead the Bearcats to back-to-back Big East Championships. Tony says that he has completely recovered from his elbow injury and is ready to show the Bengals the powerful arm that tossed 29 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions in his final college season.
“I feel great,” Pike told me. “My strength and accuracy are back. That was the biggest thing with the elbow – the nerve was causing my accuracy to go down a little bit, so with that being back, I feel great about my chance here.
“The frustrating thing about the nerve surgery was that we couldn’t really give teams a timetable for when I would be healthy. The Bengals rookie mini-camp fell at just about the right time. I just saw the doctor (Wednesday) to get cleared. I’ve been throwing a lot and staying in shape. I’ve actually been going over to Elder a little bit to throw to my brother and some of those receivers. So, it’s been a long process and a slow process, but it’s all coming together at just the right time.”
Pike might seem like a longshot to make the Bengals roster, but keep in mind that he began the 2008 season as the fifth-string quarterback at UC before leading the team to the Orange Bowl.
All he needed then was a chance.
I’d love to hear from you at Dan.Hoard@Bengals.nfl.net
If you Twitter, you can follow my tweets at http://twitter.com/Dan_Hoard
And I’m on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dan.hoard.1