The Cincinnati Bengals are getting close to full health heading into Week 2 of the preseason.
On Tuesday, starting safety George Iloka made his return to practice.
Iloka injured his knee in the early stages of training camp. The Bengals were holding their breaths after the starting safety went down clutching his knee and crawling to the sideline. The last thing the Bengals needed was a key starter going down with a major knee injury before the regular season even began.
However, after undergoing an MRI, it turned out Iloka avoided any major ligament damage, but was still expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That report was on July 31, and just more than two weeks have passed as Iloka returned to the field on August 15. Iloka had hyperextended his knee, so it was never thought to be too serious once the MRI was complete. Even with him back at practice, we still shouldn’t expect him to suit up on Saturday when the Bengals host the Kansas City Chiefs.
This isn’t the first time Iloka has been nicked up this offseason. Right after the 2016 season ended, Iloka had a minor procedure done on his shoulder. Anytime the word surgery is involved, there’s concern as to how much time said player will miss, but he wound up returning during OTAs, so even that didn’t cost him much offseason time.
At this point, Iloka looks well on his way to being fully healthy by the time Week 1 of the regular season rolls around, which is all that matters. It sounds like Iloka will be on the field starting at his usual safety spot when the Baltimore Ravens roll into Paul Brown Stadium on September 10.
For a short period of camp, the Bengals were very thin at safety while Iloka and Derron Smith were sidelined. Smith missed about a week due to a foot injury. The Bengals are also without backup rookie safety Brandon Wilson, who remains on Non-Football Injury (NFI) list due to an injury suffered in the offseason. He may not get off that injury list this year.
Those three being out led to more reps for Clayton Fejedelem and Demetrious Cox, both of whom made the most of it with good showings in camp and the preseason opener versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.