Tom Nelson, the safety that was highlighted early last year during HBO's Hard Knocks, didn't close the season on a particularly high note once he suffered a knee injury. Roy Williams was already out for the year and Chris Crocker suffered an ankle injury against the Vikings that forced him to miss the final three regular season games of the year. Nelson started those final three games as the team's free safety, recording 13 tackles during that stretch while recording 20 tackles and an interception during the team's final five games in the regular season. Nelson played strong for a backup safety until a knee injury made him virtually ineffective in the second quarter against the Jets.
Since the offseason began, Nelson has been dealing with that same knee injury, which forced the team to place him on the Active/PUP list, allowing them to keep him while not counting against the 53-man roster. The only thing is that he couldn't be activated on the 53-man roster until after the sixth week in the season. That sixth week has come and gone. According to Joe Reedy, Nelson is on the 21-day roster exemption, giving the team options. He can be activated at any point within the next three weeks and figure in as the team's 53rd man on the roster. And if he's not healthy or not needed, they can put Nelson on IR or release him. The Bengals are still one man short of filling out the 53-man roster. They can move Nelson to the 53-man roster, or go out and sign someone else.
Lewis remained non-committal though when asked whether it would remain at 52 if Nelson wasn’t activated.
Said Lewis of Nelson: “Tom has been ready to go for about four weeks and come to my office every other day and tell him that he has to wait. He’s been on the side field with his helmet and shoulder pads which is a first. He’s proving to me that he’s ready to practice and play football. I watched on Monday and he simulated everything we did on defense and special teams and showed he was ready to go. ”