Rivers missing valuable time in Cincinnati

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

Rookie linebacker Keith Rivers was a virtual lock to win a starting job at outside linebacker entering training camp. But four days and six missed practices later, Rivers is slowly hurting his chances.

Rivers remains the team's only unsigned draft pick. It's unknown what specifically is holding up contract talks, but the length of the holdout gives the impression that it is significant.

Earlier this week, head coach Marvin Lewis said it was a "shame" Rivers has yet to join the team.

Rivers was impressive in minicamp. The ninth overall pick was considered by many scouts as one of the most ready players in this year's draft, and he will need to continue to live up to that billing once he arrives.

The Bengals are installing a new 4-3 defense under assistant coach Mike Zimmer and wrinkles are being added daily. Plus, Rivers is missing opportunities to build camaraderie with his teammates.

"A lot of this stuff we've already gone over, so he's heard it once through the minicamp,'' Zimmer said. "But now is when it's starting to get critical for him, because it's all starting to come together. Even if he came out tomorrow, he's got to learn (four) days of install in one day. So he's way behind the eight ball now. It's going to be tough."

Currently, third-year veteran Brandon Johnson is getting most of the reps in Rivers' outside linebacker spot. But Johnson is not the long-term solution, so he's simply keeping the seat warm.

Still, the sooner the Bengals and Rivers can agree on a contract the better.