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Michael Johnson returning to Bengals practice on Thursday

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The Bengals are getting back one of their veteran defenders.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like the Cincinnati Bengals are getting Michael Johnson back for Thursday’s practice.

On Thursday, head coach Marvin Lewis announced that Johnson was returning to practice. This comes after Johnson was sidelined for the past four camp sessions with an undisclosed injury.

It’s never good for any player to miss significant time, but if anyone can afford to miss nearly a week of practice, it would be a veteran like Johnson. After all, this is his ninth NFL training camp and the eighth he’ll spend with the Bengals.

Veterans get plenty of rest days in camp and the preseason anyhow, so hopefully whatever he’s dealing with was minor and the team was simply being precautious with him in the early days of camp.

The last thing the defense needs right now is an an injury at defensive end. Despite Carlos Dunlap playing at a Pro Bowl-level last year, this was still one of the Bengals’ biggest weaknesses. That was mainly due to depth and not having other capable pass-rushers behind the starters, but Johnson didn’t exactly stand out either.

The nine-year veteran finished the 2016 season ranked 103rd out of 110 eligible edge defenders in Pro Football Focus’ rankings. His play doesn’t look like that of a starting defensive end making upwards of $5 million annually, but that’s his situation heading into 2017.

The hope is Johnson will rebound from that and get back to the MJ the Bengals knew and adored from 2011-13, when he was among the league’s better edge defenders while racking up 21 sacks.

Since then, Johnson has accounted for just 12.5 sacks in three seasons, one of which was a one-year disaster in Tampa Bay. That led to him being cut after signing a massive free agent deal before re-joining the Bengals.

One good thing that’s come from Johnson’s absence during the last week has been rookies Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis shining while getting more snaps. Lawson especially has looked great, and he’s expected to see playing time as a nickel edge rusher, which could come at Johnson’s expense.

Lewis also spoke highly of that duo during today’s press conference. How much playing time will they receive in 2017? We’ll soon know with the season just around the corner!