For the past four years Joe Licata was used to getting most, if not all of the first team reps at practice.
The former University at Buffalo star quarterback took over the starting job with the Bulls for the final four games during his freshman year and remained the starter until he took his final snap last November.
Now with the Cincinnati Bengals, Licata is battling for a roster spot with the defending AFC North champions.
While he’s not taking every snap, mentally, he’s staying prepared for when his number gets called.
“Meetings are huge for my development and that’s just how it goes for quarterbacks,” he said. “You don’t always get all the reps you want, but you have to be ready for when you do get a chance.”
Andy Dalton is the unquestioned starter for the Bengals. Over the past five years he’s amassed a 50-26-1 record as a starter and led the team to the playoffs every year since starting his rookie season in 2011.
However, the Bengals haven’t advanced past the Wild Card round since 1990.
AJ McCarron has severed as Dalton's backup each of the last two years, while Keith Wenning was a member of the practice squad for most of the 2015 season.
Licata is leaning on the veterans to gain as much knowledge he can about the Bengals offense.
“Andy, AJ and Keith have been a great to help to me. They're probably a little annoyed with me right now with the amount of questions I've asked, but I'm just trying to pick their brain and learn as much as I can,” Licata joked.
“There's a reason why Andy's been so successful and it's his work ethic and knowledge of this offense so I'm just trying to learn as much as I can from him."
Licata acknowledges it’s not easy to break in and be an immediate starter in the NFL. Some players wait years before they get a shot.
In the meantime, Licata, who holds the school record at UB for TDs and passing yards in his career, is hoping to impress and master an offense with each rep he takes.
“It’s not about playing against the Cincinnati Bengals in practice, it’s about what you can do against any other team come Sundays.”
The Bengals first preseason game in August 12, against Minnesota.
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