The Bengals are as healthy as they've ever been eight weeks into an NFL season, but they're still without one of their best players.
Linebacker Vontaze Burfict has yet to even practice this year after offseason microfracture a surgery in January, which has kept him out of pads for nearly 10 full months. The recovery timetable for that procedure can take as long as a year or even 18 months to fully recover from, but Burfict should be able to play at some point this season.
Still, the Bengals are playing it safe, and that's why they had Burfict go to California to meet with specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan.
#Bengals WLB Vontaze Burfict had a good evaluation of his surgically repaired left knee by Dr. Neal ElAttrache this week.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) October 29, 2015
Burfict is ready to practice, but it's now up to the team to decide when he'll get on the field.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) October 29, 2015
They have been taking the conservative approach with him, which is the best approach for long-term health of the knee.— Adam Caplan (@caplannfl) October 29, 2015
As Caplan said, the Bengals are being conservative with Burfict's knee, so don't expect him to play this week in Pittsburgh. He missed Wednesday's practice, and to this point, has only been able to work on the rehab field during training camp and in the regular season as he remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
Burfict didn't become eligible to practice until the bye week last week, and he probably needs at least a week's worth of practice to get into game shape and to become conditioned enough that he won't be at a high risk for injury once he returns.
It's possible Pittsburgh was never a realistic option for the Bengals' star linebacker, despite what the team said in the pre-season (especially since we know the Bengals typically keep quiet about injuries, when they can). With a short week coming to prepare for the Browns on Thursday Night Football in Week 9, Burfict won't even get a full week of preparation next week either.
The Bengals will also need to cut a player to add Burfict to the roster, so they need to be sure he's ready to play if they're going to sacrifice someone else's job.
That means Week 10 against the Texans on Monday Night Football, November 16 is a more a realistic return date for Burfict. That would give him 19 days between the day he had his knee re-examined (today) and kickoff for a primetime return to football. It is possible he plays sooner, but whatever happens, don't get your hopes up on him playing this week. Keep an eye out to see if the Bengals choose to let Burfict practice on Thursday or Friday.