With an abbreviated week, the team was only in sweats as they held a fairly light session and walkthrough to avoid any unnecessary injuries following Monday night's physical game, but there was still some good news to come out of it. Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert was able to participate after missing much of the past month with a stinger and then concussion. The Bengals announced after practice he has officially cleared the NFL's concussion protocol.
A concussion suffered during the Steelers game in Week 14 cost him the past two games and reports surfaced last week that he would be held out the rest of the regular season, which Geoff Hobson says is still possible. The Bengals still have something to play for though this Sunday as a win and a Denver Broncos loss or tie would give the Bengals the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Is that enough for the Bengals to play Eifert and risk him suffering a setback and missing the playoffs? We'll see in the coming days. If he doesn't play on Sunday, rookie Tyler Kroft has done well in his absence. If nothing else, Kroft getting more reps may help him be prepared to make an impact in the playoffs alongside Eifert. The Bengals took Kroft in the third round of the 2015 NFL draft hoping he and Eifert could be a formidable tight end duo, so we may start seeing that now that Kroft is showing he can make an impact.
Adding to the good news was Andy Dalton being seen for the first time since his injury doing drills and rehab work. He's still wearing the cast on his right hand after initial reports suggested it might come off Tuesday, so there's virtually no chance he plays this week. It's also looking highly unlikely he plays in a Wild Card playoff game, leaving AJ McCarron as the presumed starter for at least two more weeks.
The one notable absentee Wednesday was h-back Ryan Hewitt. He suffered a knee injury on the first drive of Monday's loss to Denver, and his absence helped lead to the offense struggling once the Broncos adjusted. He doesn't get as much recognition as many of the other guys on this loaded offense, but he's a great blocker who can also go out and make a big catch over the middle when needed. When he was left the game on Monday, rookie backup tight end C.J. Uzomah got snaps at h-back. According to Geoff Hobson, Hewitt sprained his knee and his status for Sunday is up in the air. The severity of the sprain is currently unknown.
One other notable player practicing on Wednesday was AJ McCarron, who suffered a sprained wrist on his non-throwing hand during Monday's loss in Denver. On the game's final play, McCarron mishandled a shotgun snap as the ball went through his hands and hit the ground about three yards behind him. As he dove at the ball to try and recover it, Broncos linebacker DeMarcus Ware recovered the ball and landed on McCarron's hand in the process.
As it turns out, the injury is only a sprain and doesn't look bad enough to keep him out this coming Sunday. If he were unable to go, Keith Wenning would be in line for his first NFL start. The Bengals also signed journeyman quarterback Mike Kafka to the practice squad yesterday.
Be sure to check back later for the full Wednesday practice and participation report.