Tuesday saw the Cincinnati Bengals begin their mandatory minicamp. It’s still a glorified, pad-less practice, but it does offer some good insight into various players recovering from injuries.
The biggest name to be sidelined was Tyler Eifert. The star tight end is recovering from back surgery, which has kept him limited in OTAs. The start of minicamp was more of the same as Eifert eyes a return around the start of training camp, though there’s no clear-cut date for his return. The Bengals will be ultra cautious with Eifert, being that he’s been injury prone throughout his career. The last thing they can afford is a setback, especially with Eifert entering a contract year.
Giovani Bernard has been recovering very well from the torn ACL suffered late last season. Bernard progressed far enough in his rehab that he was able to do work on the rehab field in OTAs.
Geoff Hobson reports that Bernard is already catching balls standing still as his “supersonic ACL rehab continues.” Hobson also noted that Bernard will probably start practicing at some point in August. There’s still a ways to go, but it looks like Bernard will avoid the PUP list and be able to play early in the 2017 regular season.
In the meantime, guys like Joe Mixon, Tra Carson, Boom Williams and Jarveon Williams are getting more practice reps.
Another key offensive player sidelined right now is John Ross. The first-round receiver is recovering from offseason labrum surgery, though it’s been known for a while that he would miss minicamp while rehabbing. The good news is he was present for the first minicamp session while having yet to be fully cleared for practice.
Ross will be an integral player in this offense as a rookie, so the Bengals will be very cautious with when he practices.
“I’m just waiting on the plan right now. What they have ready and feeling everything out,” Ross told Bengals.com. “I can run now. If it was up to me I’d be there catching. It’s tough when you feel good and you’re not good. I learned that a long time ago.”
#Bengals HC Marvin Lewis likes how the rehabs for Tyler Eifert, Gio Bernard, John Ross & J.J. Dielman are going re: being ready for camp.— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) June 13, 2017
"Ready for camp" not being a marker for first day participation - to be clear. Just generally speaking. #Bengals— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) June 13, 2017
Dre Kirkpatrick is hoping to become more of a leader in this defense in 2017, but that’s hard to do when the starting corner has been in and out of offseason workouts due to a broken hand. It looks like he’s sitting out of team activities in the first minicamp session:
Dre Kirkpatrick is standing on the sidelines with a hat on, no helmet, as the Bengals do 11x11 drills. He... https://t.co/34OXsNEH7z— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) June 13, 2017
Kirkpatrick needs to step up and take on a bigger leadership role this season now that guys like Domata Peko and Rey Maualuga are gone, not to mention Adam Jones could be suspended for part of the 2017 season.
Elsewhere, tight ends Cethan Carter and C.J. Uzomah returned to practice after spending time on the rehab field with undisclosed injuries during parts of OTAs.
Tight ends C.J. Uzomah & Cethan Carter are back participating in 11s. #Bengals— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) June 13, 2017
Uzomah likely has his roster spot locked up, but the undrafted Carter has a long battle ahead of him just to latch onto the practice squad.
One player who is dealing with an injury that may have been sustained this offseason is Brandon Wilson. The rookie defensive back was limited in OTAs with knee and hamstring issues. Neither are believed to be serious, though he’s still not cleared to resume practicing.
#Bengals draft pick Brandon Wilson had hoped to be participating in the mini-camp, but he's watching again today.— Jim Owczarski (@JimOwczarski) June 13, 2017
Another rookie sidelined is J.J. Dielman. The fifth-round center is still recovering from a foot injury that ended his final season of college football prematurely. Per Geoff Hobson, Dielman is set to be cleared in time for the start of training camp. He’s listed a a center, though Dielman played tackle during his college career before switching to center as a senior for the few games for which he was healthy.
Dielman is still an unknown at center, but he likes the position after his brief stint there.
“I might be really good. We’ll see,” Dielman said. “I wouldn’t say you run the show (at center), but you definitely have a little more control. It’s just not physical like at guard and tackle. You have the mental part as well.”
Hobson also notes that Dielman has been doing individual drills at center and guard, and the Bengals think he can play every line position.