CINCINNATI — Andre Caldwell was delighted when he checked into the Cincinnati Bengals training camp in July and discovered he'd been assigned Chad Ochocinco's old room No. 113.
The receiver took it as a sign that he was finally going to get a chance to start.
"I feel like this is the start of the Caldwell Era for me," he said, that sunny July day in Georgetown, Ky.
It's taken three games and one injury for that era to arrive.
The fourth-year receiver will get a lot more time now that Jordan Shipley is out for the season with a knee injury. Shipley had been the primary slot receiver, splitting time with Caldwell.
"I've been looking for a chance," Caldwell said Wednesday. "I've got my shot right now. I can't let it get away from me.
"People always put me on the backburner, but I always keep fighting, keep going. I've got my chance, and now have to make the most of it."
Caldwell was a third-round pick out of Florida in 2008, expected to contribute quickly with his ability to turn short catches into long gains. He was a backup his first two seasons.
When Antonio Bryant couldn't play in training camp last year because of a bad knee, Caldwell thought he'd finally get his chance to line up across from Chad Ochocinco. Instead, the Bengals signed Terrell Owens, the TOcho Show was formed, and Caldwell became a backup again.
It was tough to handle.
"I get a little discouraged, but don't let it show," Caldwell said. "I let my game talk for me, and that's what I'm going to do the next couple Sundays."
Shipley tore his left anterior cruciate ligament during a 24-22 loss in Denver on Sunday. Caldwell took over in the slot and caught three passes for 27 yards, including a touchdown that gave the Bengals a chance in the fourth quarter.
"You saw that once Jordan was out of the game, he stepped in and caught a couple of passes, caught a touchdown," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "So the play didn't really drop off. He came in and played well.
"They do a lot of the same things. There's not a whole lot of difference in there. They're both reliable guys, always going to do the right thing, be in the right spot."
Caldwell is the most experienced receiver in the young group, and it shows.
"In my experience, I don't think he's real vocal," coach Marvin Lewis said. "I think that everybody knows how Andre leads by the example that he sets and his preparation that way, to be able to go in and play all four receiver spots for us."
The Bengals switched offensive schemes this season, moving to a West Coast offense under coordinator Jay Gruden that emphasizes quick passes. Caldwell thinks the new approach suits him better, providing more of a chance to break a big play.
"I think it gets the ball in the playmaker's hands, lets him make plays," Caldwell said. "I'm good at running after the catch and can stretch the field. They're going to send me down the field a lot, so I think it's a good fit."Comment on this story
Notes: Former University of Cincinnati WR Armon Binns, who signed with the practice squad on Tuesday, found Chad Ochocinco's No. 85 in his locker on Wednesday. Ochocinco was traded to New England before the season. Binns is the second Bengals player to inherit the number — WR John Standeford also wore it during training camp, but was waived before the start of the season. ... S Taylor Mays fully participated in practice Wednesday. He's been sidelined by a knee injury suffered during training camp. DE Robert Geathers (shoulder) was limited.