The Bengals would like to get Vontaze Burfict on the field for at least one preseason game before letting him play in the regular-season opener.
Burfict underwent microfracture surgery back in January, we're just now getting to the period where players typically are able to return to conditioning after that procedure. That surgery takes at least nine months to recover from to the point a player is able to play in NFL games, which puts Burfict right up against the gun to play in the regular-season opener at Oakland.
According to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, the coaches are targeting Cincinnati's third preseason against the Chicago Bears as the potential debut for Burfict this year. Hobson also notes that while defensive end Margus Hunt and linebacker Sean Porter will open camp on PUP, they could return much sooner than Burfict.
The sense is that Hunt (back) and Porter (knee) are going to be back sooner rather than later. The plan with Burfict is a bit more nebulous, as is the micro fracture knee surgery he had in January. The Bengals hope he shows enough progress to get him on the practice field in time to get him ready for the third preseason game on Aug. 29 against the Bears at Paul Brown Stadium in the hopes of getting him ready for the Sept. 13 opener in Oakland. They have to pretty much be sure Burfict is going to be ready for Oakland when they let him loose because if not, they’ll have to carry him on the 53-man roster until he is ready to play.
Those three were placed on the active PUP list as the team began reporting for training camp Tuesday. If Burfict is able to actually play in a preseason game, that would be a huge step in him being able to play Week 1 against the Raiders. For now, expect to hear a lot about Burfict rehabbing on the side in practices during training camp. Being on the PUP list, he will not be allowed to practice with the team. And, as Marvin Lewis said yesterday, don't expect daily "Vontaze updates". The Bengals aren't going to rush him back, and if he's not ready to play in that third preseason game, they'll simply keep him on PUP and hope he can play in the fourth pre-season game against the Colts.
Porter is coming off yet another season-ending injury that now has his NFL career looking bleak. He's ended each of his first two NFL seasons on IR after being a fourth-round selection out of Texas A&M in the 2013 draft.
As for Hunt, he's recovering from an offseason back injury that's also put his future with the Bengals in question. He needs to have a good showing in camp to secure his spot on the 53-man roster this year. But, he won't be able to do that until he's taken off the PUP list.
As Hobson mentioned, last year Geno Atkins started training camp on the PUP list and was taken off days later. So, there is hope for Burfict, Porter and Hunt to join in on training camp at some point.