Bengals' Thomas Howard tackles the interior

Cincinnati Bengal Thomas Howard knows how to tackle the best players in the NFL, but home improvement? Not so much...

Every player in the NFL is unique and has interests off the playing field. Every week this season, espnW will profile a player to learn about his other passions. We call it Street Clothes.

When a player is drafted into the NFL, he gets two new teams: the one that selected him and the one made up of people who will help him adjust to his new life.

The team of helpers can include a publicist, accountant, manager, agent, stylist and home designer. They will handle the loose ends so the player can focus on the field.

AP Photo/Paul Jasienski

Thomas Howard believes you should design to your environment and has decorated his townhouse on a lake in Alameda, Calif., with nautical accents.

That list is one handler short for Thomas Howard of the Cincinnati Bengals. The 29-year-old outside linebacker from Lubbock, Texas, doesn't need anyone to help him decorate his home, as he has a knack for interior design and enjoys watching HGTV. His hobby helped him figure out a design for his townhouse as a rookie in Alameda, Calif., after he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in 2006.

"I was hosting Thanksgiving for my family that year, so I had to decorate in a rush," Howard said. "It has a boating bachelor feel, but it's also right by the lake with incredible views."

Midcentury modern minimalist is how his girlfriend, Allison Scott, describes the home.

"It has tons of open space, so it's clean and immaculate," Scott said.

Howard's love for interior design started in part because he was excited that he finally had a place of his own to decorate. As a child, he and his mother moved from house to house to live with friends and family members. Howard estimates he lived four places between the ages of 5 and 13 -- meaning a move every two years.

"Warren Sapp once told me, 'We are blessed to play a kid's game and get paid a king's ransom to do it,'" Howard said. "I love that football allows me to have my own home."

There's no set theme the seven-year veteran likes to incorporate into his homes, but, when designing, he abides by two rules: design to your environment, and less is more.

"One thing that can really disturb the flow of a home is clutter," Howard said. "Nice little pieces here and there do the trick. The simpler the better."

His lake townhouse in Alameda has boating accents, with white crown modeling, a long wooden picnic table in the dining room for guests and other bright accents to give it a boathouse feel. Also, the wooden blinds let the light bouncing off the lake come into the home.

Although designing is Howard's hobby, he admits his style isn't at genius level yet, and his home is still unfinished because of his busy football schedule. His Achilles' heel is fixing things. Howard is no handyman.

"I've never seen him fix anything," Scott said with laughter. "I was trying to make chicken fajitas once, and the stove wouldn't go above a heat level of 2. The chicken just sat there."

Howard's toolbox, which his mom gave him, is no bigger than a composition notebook and is rarely used. He said he gets ideas from his favorite shows on HGTV and the DIY network about what he would like to do.

"I'm not sure whether I got him into 'House Hunters' or if he was already into it," Scott said. "But we like to watch 'Love It or List It' and try to predict if the people are going to love the house or list it."

Howard said, "I like to watch 'Property Virgins' and other shows because I'm more intrigued by the vision that they have and how they can go into a home and see through the existing stuff and add pieces to design a beautiful new home."

Howard also likes to watch "Million Dollar Listing" on Bravo and thinks a career in real estate could be in his future. He plans to rent out his townhouse and buy another home in the Bay Area. But he wants to pace himself.

"I would like a place in Texas that I can always go back to and can also be a spot for my mom to relax in," he said. "When that time comes, we can really do it up in that place."

Howard's favorite piece of furniture in his Cincinnati home isn't anything lavish or expensive. It's a large, black leather sectional with pillows that can be removed for added comfort. The couch, which is large enough for his 6-foot-2, 245-pound frame and another person, is the spot of his many post-practice naps.

"It's a blessing to be able to do what I do for a living," he said, "and have a place to relax, that I can call my own."

Howard was placed on the injured reserve list after tearing his ACL during Thursday's practice, the team announced Friday.

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