Bengals release Tate, keep undrafted rookie Erickson

Published 2:48 am Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals released receiver Brandon Tate — the franchise leader in punt returns — as part of their moves to reach the 75-man roster limit on Tuesday, leaving room for a rookie to take the job.

Undrafted rookie Alex Erickson impressed during the preseason, with an 80-yard touchdown among his four punt returns. Second-round pick Tyler Boyd also returned a couple of punts, one of them for 24 yards.

The Bengals want someone to take over the bulk of the punt returns duties so cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones can stay fresh for defense.

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Erickson was a walk-on at Wisconsin and wasn’t drafted because of his limited experience, starting only two seasons in college. His impressive showing convinced the Bengals he could be counted on as a returner and an extra receiver, prompting them to release Tate.

“With what they’ve done — he and Tyler both as returners — gives us some options,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “Going in, we knew about Tyler, but we didn’t know how effective Alex would be.”

The Bengals finish the preseason on Thursday night at Paul Brown Stadium against the Indianapolis Colts. They open on Sunday, Sept. 11 at the New York Jets.

“Not that Brandon lost it, but I think Alex earned that spot with his playmaking ability,” special teams coach Darrin Simmons said. “You saw it. Everyone was kind of surprised Week One. I was, too. And then it just kept happening week after week after week and there’s something there. I have a great deal of faith in him.”

In addition to releasing Tate, the Bengals made several moves with injured players.

— Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson went on the physically unable to perform list, but could be eligible to return after the sixth week of the season. Thompson suffered a knee injury in the final game last season.

— Rookie defensive tackle Andrew Billings went on injured reserve. He suffered a knee injury during practice on Aug. 10.

— Receiver Mario Alford was released. He suffered an ankle injury in the first preseason game. If nobody claims him off waivers, he’ll revert to the Bengals’ injured reserve list.

— Kicker Jonathan Brown was waived off injured reserve. He’d been sidelined by a foot injury.

The Bengals didn’t make a move with running back Cedric Peerman, who broke his left forearm on Sunday against Jacksonville. Peerman, the No. 4 running back, is one of their top special teams players and was picked for his first Pro Bowl last season.