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Dennard practices without Bengals contract

CINCINNATI -- As Darqueze Dennard walked Tuesday toward the Cincinnati Bengals' locker room, he paused for a moment to listen to co-defensive backs coach Vance Joseph.

The new Bengals assistant was giving the rookie a brief tutorial on technique.

Dennard nodded as Joseph spoke. Everything the coach was saying made sense. Everything anyone here tells the first-round draft pick makes sense. Practicing what's preached to him, however, isn't so easy. Like countless other rookies across the league, Dennard has been inundated with information the past two weeks. His mind has been racing. Once it stops, Dennard is convinced the information Joseph and all the Bengals' veteran cornerbacks have shared will start making sense.

What doesn't yet make complete sense in his mind is the fact that he still doesn't have a contract with the Bengals. Negotiations are ongoing, he understands. He's not sure when he'll officially be paid to wear the stripes.

"I don't know what's going on," he said, shaking his head at his locker following the Bengals' first practice of organized team activities (OTAs). "I guess it's just a timing thing."

Dennard is the only Bengals draft pick who hasn't yet signed with the team. Earlier in the day Tuesday, the Bengals announced that second-round pick running back Jeremy Hill and third-round pick defensive end Will Clarke had signed. Both, like Dennard, participated in the late-morning practice.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 10 of the 32 first-round picks in this year's draft had signed contracts. The No. 23 overall pick, defensive end Dee Ford, signed with the Chiefs over the weekend. Like the others, Ford reportedly signed to the amount that he was slotted for at the pick where he was taken.

Per the rookie wage scale that was set forth in the latest collective bargaining agreement, Dennard, at pick No. 24, should make just less than $8 million across his first four seasons. That would bring him to about $1.5 million in cap value in 2014. That figure would increase over the final three seasons. He also would be eligible for more than $4 million in a signing bonus that would be paid over the life of the contract.

Thanks to that rookie wage system, the days of first-year players holding out until training camp or going through the entire OTA schedule without a contract are gone. Teams come into the draft with an idea of about how much they may be spending on each of their slotted draft picks for the next four years. So even if Dennard isn't sure when his contract will come, the Bengals really have no reason to keep him from his money, even if he's seemingly OK with them doing that.

"Money's going to come," Dennard said. "If you do a great job in this game, you'll get rewarded for it. Money's not a big thing on my mind. The only thing on my mind is helping the team out and winning championships."

Judging by how quickly the other contracts were hammered out last week, his deal should come before the week is over.

Regardless, Dennard said he wasn't worried about getting hurt while not getting paid.

"I pray every day. If it's meant to happen, it's going to happen, regardless," Dennard said. "I give all my worries and problems to God. I know He's got a right plan for me. I'm going to believe in it."

For now, the Bengals' plans involve making sure he understands their defense and has a strong grasp of the techniques they use. That's why Joseph and the veterans Dennard has been hearing from will continue to get in his ears before, during and after practices.

"Everybody says it's faster [in the NFL], but I don't really think it is," Dennard said. "Everybody can run the same and everybody can jump as high. The difference is your mindset and how fast it's going in your brain. That's what I'm trying to adjust to right now. Everything is still going 100 mph. I'm just trying to slow it down."