It started quietly.
After the Cincinnati Bengals selected Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft, he suffered a pre-training camp knee injury that forced him to miss the entire preseason, as well as the first seven games of the regular season. After playing five games while missing various contests with a concussion and a recurrence of his knee, Kirkpatrick was placed on Injured Reserve during Christmas.
When it was all said and done, Kirkpatrick played 43 defensive snaps, allowed three receptions on four attempted passes against receivers he covered, but played primarily on special teams during games he played.
Meanwhile, don't expect to see Kirkpatrick in team drills until the opening of training camp in late July as he recovers from knee surgery designed to ease the bone spurs that pretty much wiped out his rookie season.
But in between his rehab, Kirkpatrick is doing some individual drills with the defensive backs that have pleased his coaches.
However the coaches like what they're seeing and Kirkpatrick is feeling better physical with a better mind to grasp the defense, compared to this time last year.
"It's the best he's moved since he's been here," said secondary coach Mark Carrier. "It's amazing what you can do when you don't have any pain. Remember, he's been hurt pretty much since he's been here, so he really looks good so far."
"I’m a year into the game now so I feel like I’m a year better now," he said. "I’ll be ready. Going out there sometimes on Friday, me and Leon (Hall are) getting extra reps. He’s teaching me, I’m learning from him. Just learning fundamentals right now."
Completely healthy and ready to play against the Chicago Bears in week one will be like obtaining another first-round pick. Hopefully the durability concerns are flushed when he does return, but that won't be answered for some time.