Jeff Faine came to terms with retirement. After being released by Tampa Bay in March, he understood his nine-year run in the NFL may have come to an end.

The former first-round pick of the Browns in 2003 didn't want to see his career conclude, but didn't plan on playing for the sake of playing. Grinding for a paycheck didn't sit well. He needed the perfect opportunity.

“It was tough how it first happened, because I wasn’t expecting it that way,” he said of facing possible retirement. “I kind of went through a rough time with it. But I was at peace with it leading up to this.”

Four teams spoke with him over the past few months and two offered. For him, coming to Cincinnati in the wake of Kyle Cook's foot injury made perfect sense. He could insert as a starter on an emerging, young team in need of exactly what he offers in the middle: Experience.

The field and locker room feel different these days for Faine. When the depression of retirement sets in a fresh perspective emerges. He now shifts from watching Monday Night Football on his couch to lining up at the center of it across from Haloti Ngata.

Faine was given 10 days to learn a playbook, meet teammates  and prepare to line up between a rookie and second-year player making his fourth start. He spent the past four days watching film of every preseason game with the lineman, making every call prior to the play.

In the past, this may have been met with a grimace. Today, he relishes the otherwise unenviable task.  

“I’m smelling the roses a lot more than I did,” Faine said. “I’m going to enjoy every second, every minute that I’m here. Enjoy just being back involved in the game and loving it again.”
The Bengals are loving him, too. With Cook sidelined indefinitely -- he's expected to be placed on the IR/eligible to return list Tuesday – Faine brings a presence with knowledge of the offensive system due to his time running a similar scheme in Tampa Bay.

“Strong, aggressive, good athlete, moves well on his feet,” Marvin Lewis said. “We thought he was by far the best option for us.”

Cook shouldered a heavy mental load at the position making every call and check on the line. Faine estimates 85 percent of the playbook is the same and about 20 percent of the language. The gameplan isn't expected to change just because Faine's been on the roster for less than a week. And certainly Baltimore won't offer any vanilla defensive looks.

“With those guys you see a lot of different looks, you see a lot of different personnel,” Faine said. “Especially this first game, it will be a little bit more on the mental side. I’m just trying to fill that spot. I’m not really trying to make it mine from my style of calling it or anything. I’m trying to fill it.”

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter @CBSSportsNFLCIN.