Things are getting desperate for the Bengals at the safety position. For starters, they have yet to see any action from sixth-round rookie Brandon Wilson due to a lingering knee issue. Since placing him on the Non-Football Injury (NFI) list back in July, the Bengals have seen George Iloka, Shawn Williams, and Derron Smith all go down with injuries. Iloka is only expected to be out for a few more weeks, while Williams could be out for several weeks longer.
Smith seems to have recovered from his injury, so he should be ready to contribute in a temporary starting role along with Clayton Fejedelem. Unfortunately, given Wilson’s current injury status, undrafted rookie Demetrious Cox appears to be the Bengals’ only depth at the safety position. However, those players should be enough, according to Iloka, to keep things strong in his and Williams’ absence.
“I’m definitely confident in the guys we have here; I think the coaches would say the same thing,” Iloka said at Saturday’s press conference. “For me personally, whenever I get back out there — hopefully it’s (sometime) this week — it’s about getting my legs back under me and kind of picking up where I left off, where I started the first few days and meshing well with whoever’s out there, feeding off each other and making sure we’re on the same page so we don’t start off slow as a unit.”
Although the Bengals were lucky Williams’ gruesome injury turned out to be a dislocated elbow that will only sideline him for 4-6 weeks, it’s still not a situation the Bengals or Williams want to be face heading into the season.
“Yeah. I just told him that obviously it’s not what anybody wants. Obviously it’s not what he wants,” Iloka said. “He works hard in the off season, and for that to happen, he’s got to be crushed. It’s not what we wanted as a defense, as a team or as people who are just friends of his. But I just told him to try to find some positive out of it because there’s always light at the other side of the tunnel, and it’s nothing he can’t come back from and bounce back, whenever he comes back.”
It also isn’t difficult to imagine what Williams is going through right now.
“Obviously, he’s down — I would be, too. I was down when I got injured,” Iloka said. “But I feel like once he finds out the extent of his injury, he’ll get very gritty with himself once he has an idea of what he has to face what he comes back.”
However, in the interim, all Iloka and co. can do is focus on making the best of the situation at hand. Guys like Smith and Fejedelem are well-liked by the coaching staff for a reason, and there is still time for Iloka and Williams to recover before the games they are missing start to matter.
“Just want to be at top form when the season comes. It starts this week. I don’t know what they’ve got planned for me, but I am a firm believer,” Iloka said. “At least for me right now, I believe that mentally I’m still kind of sharp. But as a defensive back, I feel like I need a certain number of reps and game tempo just to get into rhythm. Everything else is for Coach Lewis to determine. I’m just trying to work myself back into form, and whatever they ask of me, I’m going to do.”
We can only hope.