It's a good day when the Cincinnati Bengals are hitting the practice field, even if it is just an Organized Team Activity session.
The first of 10 Bengals’ voluntary practices took place Tuesday morning at Paul Brown Stadium, and it was the first time the majority of the team has been together since last season ended. Though it's not a fully-padded practice and there's no full contact between players, it's still football, so get excited!
Here is everything you need to know on OTAs and what's gone on so far with the Bengals on Day 1.
Unlike training camp practices, the OTAs are closed to the public, so only select media are able to attend and Tweet about what's taking place during these sessions.
In case you need a refresher on how OTAs work, here are the three phases of OTAs, per the collective bargaining agreement:
Phase 1: Players can undergo strength and conditioning, rehabilitation from injuries and nothing else during this period. This phase lasts two weeks.
Phase 2: On-field instruction and drills are allowed, but contact is not permitted and offensive and defensive players cannot be pitted against one another in drills. This phase lasts three weeks.
Phase 3: Teams are permitted 10 days of OTAs. Again, contact isn't allowed but seven-on-seven, nine-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills are allowed. This phase lasts four weeks, and teams are also allowed to hold a mandatory veteran minicamp during this time.
Here are the dates for the remaining Bengals OTAs in 2016:
OTAs: May 24-26, May 31- June 2, June 6-9
Minicamp: June 14-16
Who's Absent And Who's Injured
There were several Bengals not present at Tuesday's OTA session, including backup quarterback AJ McCarron as he attends the birth of his son.
As for the injured Bengals and/or guys just taking the day off, veteran linebacker Rey Maualuga and fourth-year tight end Tyler Eifert were among the non-participants and Eifert was not even seen at the facility.
Veteran linebacker Vontaze Burfict was initially present and taking part in positional drills, but later left and didn't take part in the 11 on 11 drills. This could be the Bengals just holding him out to give other new backers more practice snaps as it doesn't seem like Tez suffered an injury. Dre Kirkpatrick also took part only in the early stages of practice but left for 11-on-11 drills. It was revealed earlier this offseason that Kirkpatrick was suffering from a shoulder injury during the season and he also left the Wild Card loss with an ankle injury. Darqueze Dennard who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2015 did not practice today and isn't expected to be fully cleared before training camp this summer.
Second-year right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was present but not dressed. Fullback Ryan Hewitt was present but working on the rehab field, as was fifth-year defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, who is recovering from a torn ACL.
Third-year receiver James Wright was present, but reportedly has not been cleared for full participation yet and also worked on the rehab field. He's recovering from microfracture surgery performed last August. Rookie running back DyShawn Mobley was present but working on the rehab field. We recently spoke with Mobley who said he was "all healed up" from his hamstring injury in 2015, but it's unclear if this is what's keeping him off the field or if there's another injury he's battling back from.
It's worth noting that you can't put a lot of stock into players sitting out on the first day of OTAs. For all we know, the Bengals are just being conservative with certain guys in order to keep from losing key players to an unnecessary injury. That's something we've routinely seen in recent years as OTAs have claimed some pretty big-name guys for the entire year, but not in Cincinnati thankfully.
How Do New Receivers Look?
This is the first NFL practice-like environment several new receivers are having with the Bengals. Rookie wide receivers Tyler Boyd, Cody Core, Alonzo Russell, Antwane Grant and Alex Erickson are all getting their first taste of NFL-like practices with experienced pros lining up across from them, so it will be interesting to see how they hold up.
There's also newcomer Brandon LaFell, who has plenty of NFL experience under his belt, but is practicing with his new team for the first time. As many as four of these aforementioned guys are going to be on the 53-man roster this year and will be expected to play significant snaps on offense and special teams.
Boyd, Core and LaFell should make the final roster, but don't be surprised if one of those undrafted receivers makes a run at the 53-man list.
Depth Chart Preview?
Depending on who is able to take part in these practices, we may be able to get an idea of what the depth chart will look like this coming season. One example of this was the punt returner duties, which saw Giovani Bernard, Mario Alford, Adam Jones and Alex Erickson catching punts on Tuesday.
Another example of this was Karlos Dansby, Vinny Rey and Marquis Flowers acting as the starting linebackers in the first practice. That gives us an idea that both Dansby and Flowers are already high on the depth chart after not playing for the Bengals last year (Flowers was on I.R. and Dansby was with Browns). Though, that trio got work because of Maualuga and Burfict not partaking in the practice.
With no Burfict or Maualuga practicing, it's hard to fully grasp what the depth chart looks like right now and how the pecking order at various positions will play out.
Any New Interesting Training Methods?
You may have seen the Steelers using a new training tool that features robotic dummies. We'll occasionally see teams utilizing new technology and training tools in OTAs, and the Bengals appear to be getting in on the action with the donut tackle drill.
Donut drill#Bengals pic.twitter.com/GHieLXLZRe— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonCMG) May 24, 2016
I've rarely seen any NFL team use this, but it looks pretty effective, so good on the Bengals for utilizing it for the time being. It's a nice way to give defenders a moving target to tackle to the ground that doesn't involve another player.
Though, I'm more interested to see if the Bengals get with the GoPro helmet trend in practice.