Ever since training camp began, the Bengals have been frequently hit with injuries both minor and major.
When you’re on the roster bubble, any injury is major, as it takes away reps and opportunities to showcase your abilities. That's the case with Mario Alford, who was seen wearing a walking boot at the Bengals facilities on Monday. It’s believed Alford has a sprained ankle.
Alford suffered an injury in the third quarter of Friday's preseason loss to the Vikings. It came after Alford made a 14-yard reception, but then hobbled to the sideline and did not return to the game. Here is the play during which the injury occurred.
After the play, Alford hopped off the field while not putting pressure on the injured foot. It didn’t look like anything significant at the time, and he didn't appear worried or in major pain on the sideline.
Hopefully, it's just a minor sprain that will only keep him out a few days of practice.
That could still be very costly with the Bengals playing Thursday night at Detroit, making it hard to see him playing in that game if he's wearing a walking boot three days prior.
This is more bad news for Alford, whose injury has already put him on the wrong side of the roster bubble. That's because his departure from the preseason opener allowed Alex Erickson to be inserted at punt returner, and we saw what he was able to do there.
Erickson could now ahead of Alford in the receiver pecking order, and that won't change while Alford is injured and not getting reps.
The good news is both Alford and Erickson are eligible for the practice squad, so the Bengals should be able to keep both of them for at least the start of the regular season, if they choose to go that route.
All of this also only reinforces the belief that Brandon Tate will be back on the 53-man roster this season. Even if Erickson makes it, Tate likely opens Week 1 as the primary kickoff and punt returner, though Erickson could eventually win the punt returning job.