If you're planning on making it down to Bengals training camp this year, don't expect to see Cedric Ogbuehi on the field.
Cincinnati's first-round selection out of Texas A&M is making progress in his rehab from a torn ACL suffered in the Aggies' bowl game in December. However, the expectation remains that Ogbuehi will open camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list.
It also looks likely that, even if Ogbuehi is healthy enough to practice, the Bengals are going to play it safe and keep him on PUP going into the regular season, per Geoff Hobson:
"It’s a blessing. I’m glad I’m able to help out my family,’ he said. "But right now I’m focused on the knee. Plan A is get the knee ready. That’s all I’m focused on."
All signs are pointing to him able to play midway through the season. He’s ramped up his rehab in the past few weeks to encompass running (not full speed yet) and cutting, as well as exercises strengthening the knee. He says he’s doing some work in a stance, but nothing with the offensive line as he continues to work under director of rehab Nick Cosgray.
Ogbuehi is a far enough along in his rehab that he was able to join his teammates at Thursday’s team-building exercise that Lewis traditionally uses in the slot reserved for the 10th and last voluntary practice of the spring. Instead of Paul Brown Stadium the scene was the sand volleyball court at Hahana Beach in Newtown, where Ogbuehi continued his rehab while his mates took part in an eight-team tournament.
Ogbuehi knows he's got a long and challenging road to recovery while also getting adjusted to the NFL. This also comes after a senior season in which Ogbuehi struggled to adjust to left tackle, so much so he was put back at right tackle in November.
Despite this, Ogbuehi is confident he'll not only recover, but his play will show he was worthy of a first-round selection.
"I’m just trying to earn that money," Ogbuehi said. "I just want to do what they drafted me to do and that’s help this team win. I’m excited for the challenge. All I can do is learn the offense and learn from the vets."
When Ogbuehi signed his first NFL contract Friday, Marvin Lewis admitted he was picked with the future in mind.
"We are looking to get a lot of help from this group to extend our string of playoff appearances and then go farther," Lewis said. "With Cedric, that help will come a little farther down the road, but this is a guy who’s worth a little wait."
Offensive line coach Paul Alexander loves what he's seen out of the Bengals' first round draft pick, who he says is the kind of blue-collar worker the Bengals' line prides itself on.
"Self-starter is the right word. He's a focused guy," Alexander said, via Cincinnati.com. "Everyone's said that about him, that he's a reliable worker. You look for that in a guy. Anyone you gotta push isn't worth a darn, typically."
Patience will be the key with Ogbuehi, both for coaches and fans. Even if he does come off PUP and onto the 53-man roster midway through the year, there's a decent chance he's not even a game day active to start out. If the rest of the line is healthy, it's going to be hard to sit Jake Fisher or even Eric Winston with Ogbuehi still getting up to speed.
Unless there's an injury at tackle, Ogbuehi probably won't play this year unless it's at guard. He does have a full year of starting experience there at A&M.
Whatever happens, the future is the key with Ogbuehi. Anything he provides in 2015 is a bonus.