The Cincinnati Bengals were one of several teams to be participating in the Back Together Saturday practices across the NFL. It is one of the only chances fans will have a chance to see this team up close and personal prior to the preseason.
The day started off with fans filling up almost all of the lower bowl of what remains at the moment Paul Brown Stadium.
It seemed like this day was made exactly for a player like running back Joe Mixon. He wasted no time interacting with fans and the team even allowed him to get on the mic to get the fans excited prior to practice kicking off.
There are countless videos of Mixon playing catch, tossing touchdown balls into the crowd and signing autographs for fans while he wasn’t on the field. It can not be understated that this entire recap could be completely focused around how excited Mixon was to put on a show for the fans.
Mixon was able to make just as much noise this afternoon on the field. He was able to wow the crowd with plenty of catches out of the backfield, which included a beautiful catch that would be just as impressive if a true wide receiver made it.
Joe Mixon with a slick one-handed, over-the-shoulder grab down the sideline against tight coverage from Tre Flowers.— Paul Dehner Jr. (@pauldehnerjr) July 30, 2022
Showing off his hands for the fans today.
One of the things Bengals fans have been waiting for is Mixon making more plays as a pass catcher. It has been rough in recent years as the team has had to keep running backs in for pass protection due to the offensive line. However, with the upgraded line, we could very well see Mixon running more routes than ever.
He still made plenty of plays running the ball as well on the day. Safe to say we could see a career season from Mixon if the line can hold up.
Chase on a dig makes terrific catch in front of Awuzie. Mixon made two long TD runs over 50 yards. Mixon going full speed.— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) July 30, 2022
Of course, we have some updates with injuries. It seems like things are progressing as expected. Some veterans are getting rest days, those with semi-serious injuries aren’t being rushed back to the field and those recovering are being eased in.
D.J. Reader is getting the day off today - he's here but not dressed for practice. Joe Burrow still absent, not surprisingly, and Pooka Williams and La'el Collins remain out as well. One return of note: TE Mitchell Wilcox is back to work today. #Bengals— Laurel Pfahler (@LaurelPfahler) July 30, 2022
Bengals WR Tee Higgins (shoulder) is still going through the gradual ramp up process as he gets back to 100%. He's participating in position drills but isn't doing any work in 11 on 11 or 7 on 7 drills.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) July 30, 2022
Same with Alex Cappa and Logan Wilson.
There are some very significant names on that list expected to be major contributors when the season starts. However, there is no urgency to get guys like offensive tackle La’el Collins on the field with a nagging injury just to have it get aggravated further. Also, wide receiver Tee Higgins is coming off an upper body surgery that will heal given time.
We would likely see some of these guys play through these sorts of injuries if there was an actual game to be played, but Cincinnati hasn’t even started practicing with pads quite yet. Also, all of these players are in a position where their roster spots and depth chart spots are practically a given already.
One player who doesn’t have that luxury is wide receiver Michael Thomas, who had an injury scare yesterday. He is back out there today fighting to retain that roster spot behind Higgins, Tyler Boyd and Ja’Marr Chase.
Mike Thomas out here after yesterday’s injury scare pic.twitter.com/h2yMNuJtUF— James Rapien (@JamesRapien) July 30, 2022
The Bengals were also one of a couple of teams to have NFL Network live at their practice watching and making observations. It gave Cincinnati a chance to show off what their new helmets look like on TV. It also gave the analysts and insiders a chance to gush over the offensive weapons the Bengals have gathered.
It is also never too late for a kicker update. Evan McPherson aka SHOOTER, nailed a 65-yard field goal (with room to spare). Safe to say he should be in store for another fantastic season after one of the best rookie seasons by a kicker ever.
Head coach Zac Taylor also gave some notable updates during his press conference following the practice. The biggest was the team giving quarterback Joe Burrow his space while he recovers from an appendectomy.
Zac Taylor says Joe Burrow "will be back in when he's ready." No timetable.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) July 30, 2022
This is obviously something that we don’t typically see a player go through during a football season, and it is one that has a fairly large variability in recovery. It is also worth noting again that none of these practices are as crucial as making sure this team has a healthy Burrow for Week 1.
A player fans could be seeing more of sooner rather than later was preseason phenom pass rusher Joseph Ossai. It sounds like he could be back in the fold very soon after missing his entire rookie season.
Zac Taylor said it’s more “short term” instead of “long term” in terms of Joseph Ossai’s return to team drills. Sounds like it could be soon #Bengals— Kelsey Conway (@KelseyLConway) July 30, 2022
Finally, it was obvious that fans showed up for this opportunity. There is no doubt that winning has made us all believers in this team.
The Bengals had 28,283 fans at today's open practice.— Charlie Goldsmith (@CharlieG__) July 30, 2022
The Reds have only had 28,283 fans at four games all season