The Bengals may be 6-0, but they've accomplished that without two key players who could be back on the field very soon.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is one of the game's best when he's healthy, something he hasn't been for over a year after concussions and knee surgery cost him most of 2014 and the start of this season. A knee injury suffered during college also cost rookie tackle Cedric Ogbuehi much of the offseason and the start of his rookie season.
Ogbuehi and Burfict opened the season on the Physically Unable to Perform and Non Football Injury lists respectively but we could see both players practicing for the Bengals in the coming weeks. According to Fox Sports' Alex Marvez, head coach Marvin Lewis said the next two days of rehabilitative work will help influence whether Burfict and Ogbuehi will make their 2015 practice debuts Monday when the team resumes practicing. Neither player went home for the bye week and each are continuing to work to test their readiness to return.
"We're impressed with where they are in the process," Lewis said Thursday morning on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "Now we're just trying to transition them as close as we can to make them ready to eventually come back and handle the rigors of football practice.
"They're here continuing to work now (during the bye week). These are a couple of critical days for them to not have any setbacks. It's really been good to watch the smiles come on their faces as they see themselves having turned the corner now and getting ready to play NFL football."
Though a decision on their return could come as soon as Monday, it may not come until as late as December. The Bengals have until December 1st to decide whether to activate Burfict and/or Ogbuehi to the 53-man roster or keep them out of commission for the entire 2015 season.
"We're not going to rush into anything until we really feel like they're ready," Lewis said.
At this point, the odds of either of them being activated aren't known. Burfict wasn't on the rehab field during the team's final practice before the bye week break, though Ogbuehi was. Both players are too important for not only this season, but the foreseeable future for Cincinnati to risk them suffering setbacks and potential long-term complications by returning even a week too soon.
It's also important to note that following the Bengals' Week 7 game in Pittsburgh, they have a short week before playing on Thursday Night Football against another division rival, the Cleveland Browns.