Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 12/21/11
TEMPE, Ariz. Deuce Lutui delivered a strong message to the Cincinnati Bengals as he left their training camp this summer after failing his physical and forfeiting a two-year, 8.75 million free-agent deal. "I looked them in the face," Lutui said upon arriving back in Cardinals camp in early August. "I was like, 'just understand what's leaving the door and I'll see you guys at Christmas.'" Lutui will travel with the Cardinals to Cincinnati for a Christmas Eve grudge match against the Bengals. But his message has largely been muted by the fact that he is no longer in the starting lineup. Once a building block for the Cardinals offensive line, the 2006 second-round draft pick is now backing up right guard Rex Hadnot while playing out a one-year, 950,000 deal. "This year has been a big-time difference for me," Lutui said Wednesday. "I've always been a starter. This has been an experience and a learning curve." The central issue for Lutui has always been his weight. Coaches want him to play around 340 pounds. Lutui has always believed he's still effective when he's heavier. He reported to Bengals camp at 381, and that was all Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis needed to move in another direction. "I think it's important that the free-agency period was different than normal (due to the lockout)," Lewis said. "Normally, you have a guy come in and you put him through his bases physically, he sees the doctors, and so forth, and then you get into negotiating a contract. "Sometimes this year, the cart got before the horse, and in this case, they made it, I guess, to a contract. But they were always contingent on the players passing physicals. A lot of times doctors that are familiar with their own player will be a little bit more accepting on certain conditions a player has." Whisenhunt certainly wasn't accepting of Lutui's weight. He made that clear at training camp and through Lutui's demotion to second team. Hadnot admitted the situation was awkward because he and Lutui are friends. "When I got here last year I felt an immediate bond with him," Hadnot said. "I've been to a couple birthday parties for him and his kids. You can't help but like him. But work and relationships are two different things." Hadnot said the two solved the problem through simple communication. "Training camp nights are long, so we certainly had a couple conversations about it," Hadnot said. "If you take everything as constructive in life, no matter what it is -- criticism or whatever -- it can build you up, and that's what he's done. "If anything, it's probably motivated him more as a player and as a person." When Lutui actually turned the corner depends on who you ask. Lutui said he approached the season from the outset with a new purpose, hiring a mental coach to help him focus on weight, his conditioning and his game preparation, while working with the Cards' notoriously tough strength and conditioning coach, John Lott. It was an admission that he could no longer get by with the same habits he developed at Mesa High, USC and early in his pro career. "I got away with relying on youth. It took me minimal preparations just to play," he said. "Now we're getting wise and maturing in our bodies. It takes a little more." Whisenhunt didn't see that commitment immediately this season. "I feel a lot better about Deuce now than I did early in the year when he was struggling to get down and it was a weekly battle," Whisenhunt said Wednesday. "He's done a very good job the last four, five weeks of being consistent with his weight, and that's what we needed to see. That was a big question about Deuce." Lutui understands that this offseason is important to his future, but he understood that last summer before forfeiting a little less than 8 million. With one more slip-up, he could permanently tarnish his reputation and what once appeared to be a bright future. "I've been in the best mental shape and physical shape that I've been in, in a long time. I've really learned the business side of this whole thing and I've moved on," he said. "My mind is no longer in Cincinnati. It's here with the Cardinals. I've got a few more games to be with the Cardinals, so we'll see what happens." "I guess I'm king of who I am."
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for our favorite football movies
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Clint Dempsey undergoing testing for irregular heartbeat

Troubling details emerge from Jeremy Jeffress' DWI arrest

Chargers would welcome Joey Bosa if he signed contract

Falcons rookie Keanu Neal needs surgery on knee

Jerry Jones unhappy with Ezekiel Elliott's dispensary visit

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Texas Tech using fake Twitter accounts to track players

Nike creates custom Air Jordan shoes in tribute to Craig Sager

Browns wanted ‘second-round pick and then some’ for Gordon

Report: Eric Berry to sign next week, be ready to play in Week 1

Lochte to be summoned to appear in Rio, charged with making false report

Carlos Ruiz traded to Dodgers

Heading into the homestretch: 2016 ROY favorites

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

One Gotta Go: NFL legends talking comedians is no joke

It's all about timing: The evolution of the clock in sports

Predicting the unpredictable: Your MTV VMAs rundown

10 great moments in the career of Roberto Duran

Marshall’s first impression of Fitzpatrick: ‘He was terrible’

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for fast food

What you need to know about the Champions League draw

Six worst quarterback situations in the NFL

Can the San Francisco Giants bust their teamwide slump?

A look at 2016 college football conference changes

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Premier League notebook: The love affair at Man U

Heading into the homestretch: 2016 ROY favorites

One Gotta Go: NFL legends talking comedians is no joke

It's all about timing: The evolution of the clock in sports

Predicting the unpredictable: Your MTV VMAs rundown

10 great moments in the career of Roberto Duran

The 20 best boxing movies of all time

One Gotta Go: NFL legends bring the hate for fast food

What you need to know about the Champions League draw

Can the San Francisco Giants bust their teamwide slump?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker