Marvin Lewis held his first press conference of training camp on Saturday and though it was mostly status quo, the Cincinnati Bengals head coach did reveal some interesting tidbits of information.
Giovani Bernard’s eight-month ACL recovery has been the talk of the town and Lewis reflected on that on Saturday.
“It didn’t surprise me,” Lewis said. “From the start when he was injured last season, the medical people felt like his return and his surgery and everything should be without complication, and that he would have a good and early result, which is what the doctors felt right away when he was injured. He’s obviously met those expectations. It was important to him to be back and ready to go from the start, and he’s worked his tail off to do that. He’s been very diligent in his rehab all through the process, from the time he was injured and getting the swelling down to before he had the surgery. He’s stayed on schedule and been ahead of the curve.”
Another topic of conversation in Cincinnati is the kicker competition, highlighted by rookie Jake Elliott and veteran Randy Bullock with first year player Jonathan Brown rounding out the group. The Bengals will not be holding a kicking competition everyday and only two kickers will kick field goals on days where there is a competition.
“Just because of the length of the time now (they won’t kick everyday),” Lewis said. “We kind of rotated every day in the spring, with two guys each day. (Special teams coordinator) Darrin (Simmons) has them work. He has done this for a long time and has been involved with it for longer, so I’m very comfortable with his plan. We sat down and discussed his plan before training camp.”
On Saturday, Bullock and Brown kicked, while Elliott did not. Bullock made all three of his kicks (from 23, 30 and 34 yards yards). Meanwhile, Brown missed his 30-yarder while making the 23 and 34 yard kicks.
Early word out of camp is Vontaze Burfict has lost weight and is looking good. Lewis confirmed as much, saying it’s the best condition Burfict has been in since his superb 2013 Pro Bowl season.
“(2013) was the best he’s been, and he’s back to that,” Lewis said. “He just has to maintain it. And as you’ve said, it’s just one day. But, it’s actually day No. 13, because we’ve had some already. He’s done a good job in those days. He’s got continue it.”
An addition to the linebacker group this year is the fifth year player signed away from the Arizona Cardinals, Kevin Minter. Lewis seems impressed with him so far and that’s encouraging to hear when considering the team’s linebacker unit.
“He’s been great. It’s what we expected,” Lewis said. “He’s been almost plug-and-play. Kevin was a very fine, steady player at LSU. He played within the scheme. He’s done a great job since coming here and learning what we are doing. He’s fitting right in with the group of guys. He plays hard and with his pads at the right level. He understands the passing game and where he needs to fit in the run defense, depending on the defense and coverage. I’ve been very pleased with him. It’s been a good fit.”
And, while Burfict and Minter figure to see the most playing time at linebacker, another guy who’s expected to see a big increase in snaps this season is second year linebacker Nick Vigil. Lewis has liked his jump in play from 2016 to 2017 and it seems the linebacker group is coming together nicely.
“It’s a common progression in what you see in guys from their first year to their second year,” he said. “They spend their first year getting prepared to get here. After that, they figure out what it is. He’s had a whole season of eating better and training, and now he’s going to grow as a man. That’s why you want the guys that look like that coming out of college. Jordan Evans is a good example of that this year.”
The Bengals’ linebacker group wasn’t all that strong in 2016, but it looks like that could be changing for the better in 2017.