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Andy Dalton cleared to throw again; admits playing in Divisional Round was unlikely

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Andy Dalton is back...except there aren't any games right now ;(

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

One of the notable offseason storylines Cincinnati is facing this offseason is the health of Andy Dalton.

A fractured thumb suffered on Dec. 13 of last season effectively ended Dalton's season as he missed the final four games of the season, including the Wild Card playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Though Dalton was targeting the Divisional Round for a return, there was doubt he'd even be able to play then, at least at an effective level.

Dalton admitted as much in an interview Mac Engel of the Star-Telegram, where the Bengals quarterback also said he's been cleared to throw again.

Andy Dalton says the thumb is good, that the X-rays are clean and that his doctor gave him the go-ahead to resume throwing this week.

Dalton suffered a torn right thumb in a loss against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 13. It effectively ended the best season of his career. He said even had the Bengals defeated the Steelers in the AFC Wild Card game he would likely not have been OK to play, but he would have tried regardless in the AFC Divisional round.

Dalton originally suffered the injury in a Week 14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. With 5:06 remaining in the first quarter, Dalton targeted Giovani Bernard on a running back screen around the line of scrimmage, but defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt intercepted the ball. As Dalton clipped Tuitt's legs to make the tackle, his throwing hand landed against Tuitt's knee and fractured it in the process.

Despite not playing in the final month of this season, Dalton still threw for 25 touchdowns and 3,250 yards vs just seven interceptions, good for a career-high 106.3 passer rating. He also rushed for three scores and helped lead the Bengals to a 10-2 start and were atop the AFC standings before going down.

With the offseason now here, we're still about two months until OTAs begin and Dalton gets a chance to throw in an NFL practice again. He'll probably get together with some of his receivers and train at some point this offseason, not to mention making a few trips to see Dr. Tom House.

All of this will hopefully help lead to Dalton having as good of a 2016 season as his 2015 was before the injury. He was on the verge of a Pro Bowl berth and possible All-Pro selection. That's how good he was, and he should perform at a similar level in 2016.