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The Debrief: Everyone is Coming Back Edition

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned to practice on Wednesday.

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Detroit Lions v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

1) Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is back, baby! The seventh-year linebacker returned on Monday after serving a four-game suspension and on Wednesday, Burfict (the soul of Cincinnati’s defense), returned to practice; He’s reportedly in great shape — though Preston Brown offers a little extra, saying that he’s “a little chubby on the side, but that’s how Tez is.” Burfict, who struggled to stay healthy during training camp and the preseason, served a four-game suspension this year for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Quote of the day. Marvin Lewis on Burfict’s fitness: “When he came up from behind and picked me up off the floor on Monday, I knew it could only be one person. I guess it’s time to wrestle with the bear again (chuckles).”

The roster exemption question: As a roster exemption, Burfict won’t count against the 53-man roster until the team vacates a spot on their active roster. We’re assuming this will happen when Cincinnati places Tyler Eifert on Injured Reserve by the end of the week.

His return can’t come soon enough: In Cincinnati’s first four games (without Burfict), their total defense ranks 29th (419.2 yards/game), their passing defense ranks 28th (303.5 yards/game), and their rush defense ranks 21st (115.8 yards/game).

2) Running back Joe Mixon keeps getting closer. During Wednesday’s 45-minute locker room session between the players and Cincinnati’s media, Mixon said he’s not yet medically cleared and is aiming to return by Week 6 against Pittsburgh, if not this week. Then Mixon showed up to practice in full pads and was a limited participant on Wednesday. Injury-based news is difficult to decipher, because we don’t know who is telling the truth and the media isn’t as connected as they used to be. Basically everyone learns the truth at the same time.

Since entering the league in 2013, Giovani Bernard is one of two players (Le’Veon Bell) with 3,000-plus yards rushing (3,055) and 2,000-plus yards receiving (2,138). Bernard rushed for 130 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and caught nine passes for 52 yards — that translates to 182 yards from scrimmage on 36 touches in the two games (combined) since Mixon has been out. He’s also scored three rushing touchdowns in the past two games.

However, Bernard is dealing with his own knee injury. According to the team’s injury report, Bernard didn’t practice on Wednesday; it’s believed he hurt his knee late in the game against Atlanta. If Bernard is out on Sunday against Miami and Mixon isn’t ready, Cincinnati would rely on rookie Mark Walton and veteran Thomas Rawls.

3) Center Billy Price remains in a boot for two more weeks. You hope his recovery would be more expeditious, but Cincinnati is being extremely cautious with Price after his most recent evaluation on Tuesday. He’s quick to deny any setbacks — there’s no pain nor swelling. Once the boot is discarded in two weeks, the team will re-evaluate... again.

In the meantime Trey Hopkins has started the last two games at center, and his PFF grades (if you buy into such things), is relatively impressive as a pass blocker (two pressures allowed) but could use some work (actually, a LOT) as a run blocker.

Bengals Injury/Practice Report Week 5

TE Tyler Eifert Ankle DNP DNP DNP IR
C Billy Price Foot DNP DNP DNP OUT
HB Giovani Bernard Knee DNP DNP DNP OUT
WR John Ross Groin LP DNP DNP OUT
DE Carl Lawson Ankle -- LP FP --
HB Joe Mixon Knee LP LP FP --
DE Michael Johnson Knee LP LP FP --
LB Preston Brown Shoulder LP FP FP --
OG Alex Redmond Shoulder LP FP FP --

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