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P.J. Dawson back at Bengals practice; 6 others sit out

Is it too little too late for Dawson to make the Bengals’ roster?

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals-Minicamp Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

P.J. Dawson is fighting for his roster life, so it was imperative he returned from his arm injury as soon as possible. He finally did so Thursday when he was back at Bengals practice, though he still had a cast on his arm.

Dawson has been missing practice due to an injury suffered early in training camp, which had him in a cast for the past three weeks. He missed both preseason games thus far and was not practicing on Wednesday, but finally returned to action Thursday, likely in a limited role.

Since the Bengals play on Sunday, Dawson does have enough time to get up to speed and make his preseason debut, which is imperative if he hopes to make the final roster.

The problem with Dawson, just as it was in college, was work ethic. Dawson had a so-so rookie season that saw him appear in 11 games and make 12 tackles with one pass deflection. However, Dawson developed a reputation for relying heavily on his talent and ability to be a stud backer in college, without doing the necessary work in the weight and film rooms.

Dawson learned the hard way that talent alone won’t cut it in the NFL. After reportedly having poor work ethic during his first year with the Bengals and missing team meetings during the 2016 offseason, he was cut last year in favor of linebacker Trevor Roach, whose work ethic dwarfed that of Dawson. The Bengals weren’t willing to let Dawson continue to get away with his attitude and cut him as a result.

Fortunately for Dawson, the Bengals gave him a second chance on the practice squad and late in the season, he spent two games on the roster. During that time, he made one tackle, leaving himself with virtually no new film to go off since his rookie season.

That will make it hard for him to land with another 53-man roster if he can’t make the Bengals’ this year. He does still have a year of practice squad eligibility if the Bengals want him back there. He is now part of a heated competition for the backup positions at outside linebacker, which also includes fourth-year linebacker Marquis Flowers.

The Bengals also drafted two linebackers in this year’s draft in Jordan Evans and Carl Lawson. Lawson has already wowed plenty of coaches and fans at training camp and the preseason with his pass-rushing ability. He’s a lock to make the roster and is already higher than Dawson on the current depth chart at outside linebacker.

As for Evans, he’s listed as the third-string weakside linebacker, whereas Dawson is the third-strong strongside linebacker. Evans has shown a lot of promise through two preseason games, enough to think he’s comfortably ahead of Dawson for the final linebacker spot.

Dawson is probably just fighting for a spot on the practice squad at this point with the likes of Brandon Bell and Hardy Nickerson.

Speaking of, both Bell and Nickerson were out Thursday in addition to fellow linebacker Kevin Minter. They were joined by Shawn Williams, Brandon Wilson and C.J. Uzomah, all of whom are expected to remain out for at least the rest of this week.

Seeing Minter out for a second-straight day is concerning, being that he’s the starting middle linebacker come Week 1 after signing a nice free agent deal with Cincinnati this offseason.

Bell and Nickerson being out all but assures they’ll be waived during final roster cuts and be vying for spots on the practice squad, barring an injury to a Bengals linebacker expected to make the final roster.

Uzomah is still recovering from an ankle sprain that could keep him sidelined until the regular season begins. That may give Cethan Carter or Mason Schreck a chance to sneak onto the final roster, but that’s unlikely since Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft and Ryan Hewitt can hold down the fort.

As for Williams, he suffered a scary elbow injury in the preseason game against the Chiefs and figures to be out for at least one month. And with Wilson, he’s dealing with a knee injury suffered during rookie minicamp. He hasn’t yet practiced in OTAs, mandatory minicamp, training camp or the preseason. He’s likely to start the year on an injury list, keeping him off the field for a minimum of six weeks.

UPDATE: 3:337 p.m.

It looks like Minter does not have an injury, but is instead missing practice due to a personal issue.

Hopefully, Minter and his family are fine and this is nothing serious.