As the Bengals popped up in Cincinnati for the first day of voluntary offseason workouts, two key players who ended last season injured had some positive updates on their health.
The biggest news is from quarterback Andy Dalton, whose 2015 campaign came to an abrupt end when he broke his thumb in a Week 14 loss to the Steelers. It forced him to miss the next four games, including the Wild Card loss, and it didn't appear he'd be able to play in a Divisional Round game either.
But the good news is Dalton says that he's back to 100-percent health and will be a full participant in offseason workouts. He also told reporters he's not sure if he'd have been able to return even had Cincinnati reached the Super Bowl.
"We were super conservative with it at that point, because there was no reason to rush it," Dalton said, via ESPN. "So who knows what would have happened if we would have won and if I would have been able to come back and play."
Dalton has since been cleared and has been throwing for the past month, so it doesn't look like there are any setbacks in his recovery.
"I've never had all that time off from throwing before, so just to get back into it again and making sure mechanically that everything was sound -- because of the amount of time I had to take off -- it felt good," Dalton said. "The ball is coming out of my hand well right now, and I feel like I'm getting back to where I was."
Another notable injury last year was to cornerback Darqueze Dennard. He suffered scratched shoulder capsule, tore his labrum and rotator cuff during a Week 11 loss at Arizona. That kind of injury can keep a player out for an entire offseason, but Dennard did say he expects to be ready for the start of training camp.
"(This offseason) is very important for me, especially knowing I didn’t finish the season," Dennard said, via Dayton Daily News. "Right when I got the chance to start playing a little I got hurt. I’ll take the good things and the bad things that I did in the time I did play, and I’m just looking forward to spreading myself mentally, getting right physically and getting ready for the long haul."
Dennard isn't hiding from the fact that injuries have plagued him through the first two years of his NFL career, but it's not keeping him from having a great mindset either.
"I’ve been praying and doing different things, switching up my meals, stretching a little more and just trying to take better care of my body all around," he said. "Talking to the doctors and trainers and stuff, I’ve just got to peek at the right time."
One other injured Bengal to mention is Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert, who missed several games last year due to a concussion and a stinger, not to mention suffering an ankle sprain in the Pro Bowl. The foot sprain has kept him from being cleared for offseason workouts.
But as Geoff Hobson writes, it's not exactly kept Eifert from having an eventual offseason.
He has yet to be cleared, but he says the foot he sprained in the fourth quarter of his first Pro Bowl in January is fine and isn’t preventing him from getting anything done. He returned with what amounted to a crew cut after having most of his hair cut off St. Patrick’s Day to show solidarity with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation effort at stamping out childhood cancer. He also went hunting in the mountains of New Zealand, where he used a bow to take down three huge animals, a stag, a tahr, and a ram.
This will be something to watch for in the coming months (the injury, not Eifert's hunting skills, of course). It's hard to believe that an ankle sprain in the Pro Bowl has caused him to not be cleared for OTAs...unless there's more to the injury than the Bengals let on, but they would never do such a thing...