AFC North: 2014 Injury Wire

CINCINNATI -- Kevin Zeitler has practiced for two straight days.

That's more practice time than he's had with teammates in more than a month, meaning signs are good that the Cincinnati Bengals right guard will play Sunday at Indianapolis.

"It felt good [Wednesday] and it still feels good today," Zeitler said, referring to his right calf, just before Thursday afternoon's practice.

Zeitler has been bugged by the calf since Sept. 14, when he hurt it blocking for Giovani Bernard on a goal-line touchdown run against the Falcons. The injury didn't require surgery, but he was on crutches for several days and went through a long rest and rehab process.

On Thursday, Zeitler was simply trying to see how well the leg responded to getting worked out on back-to-back days. It was the second consecutive practice he participated in full capacity.

"If I can get through that practice completely healthy," Zeitler said, "that'll be just reassuring. It's just getting back with everyone and getting all those habits that I took all of training camp to develop before taking the last four weeks off."

Before getting hurt, Zeitler had started strong. He was good in the running game and slightly better protecting the pass. Pro Football Focus gave him positive grades in both the games he played in, giving him a plus-1.9 overall grade in the half he played against Atlanta.

Zeitler's focus this training camp was to "get back to what I know I can do." He said he was a little dismayed by what he believed was a struggle-filled season in 2013, and get back to building from a strong rookie season in 2011. To do that, he's going to have to get his muscles trained to doing what they had been before the injury.

"I thought I was doing well the first one-and-a-half games, but now that you've been off for like four weeks, some of that muscle memory disappears," Zeitler said. "It's just a matter of getting your body to do what it knows how to do again."

Below are a few other players who are hopeful to play Sunday. Here's a look at Thursday's injury report:

Did not practice
WR A.J. Green (toe)
LB Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder)
LB Rey Maualuga (hamstring)
OG Clint Boling (veteran's day off)
OT Andrew Whitworth (veteran's day off)
DT Brandon Thompson (knee)

Limited practice participation
S George Iloka (groin)
OT Andre Smith (shoulder)
DE Wallace Gilberry (eye)

Full practice participation
OG Kevin Zeitler (calf)
CINCINNATI -- One day after tight end Tyler Eifert suffered a serious elbow injury in the Cincinnati Bengals' season opener at Baltimore, coach Marvin Lewis was tight-lipped when discussing it during his post-game news conference Monday afternoon.

Asked if he had an update on Eifert, Lewis simply said, "No, I don't. No more than [Sunday's]."

Near the end of the first quarter of the 23-16 win against the Ravens, Eifert took an awkward fall at the end of a 14-yard reception that put the Bengals in goal-line territory. He immediately clutched his right arm as soon as he was down, and teammates standing nearby quickly waved training staff over. After a couple minutes on the ground, Eifert was eventually helped to his feet and taken into the locker room for observations.

The Bengals haven't formally said what the injury is other than that it was to his elbow. Video replays of the reception seem to indicate he dislocated the elbow while reaching for the ground as he was going down.

In the second half of Sunday's game, Eifert was seen on the sidelines with his right arm bandaged and in a sling.

He had the same apparatus on Monday when he walked through the locker room while it was open. He declined comment on the injury when asked.

Lewis was similarly silent when asked if he had any concern that Pro Bowl linebacker Vontaze Burfict will now be placed under concussion protocol. The third-year defender was run from the ballgame with a head injury after hitting Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco hard on an unimpeded blitz into the backfield. Burfict drove Flacco into the ground on the play, with his head right in Flacco's midsection. After a few moments on the ground, Burfict wobbled to the sideline with trainers' help. He was removed from the game not long after and escorted to the locker room, ruled out with the concussion.

Head injuries don't have set healing times like other issues. Because of the nature of the tests associated with the concussion protocol and the other symptoms trainers have to look for following head injuries, it could take days, weeks or months for a player to be cleared. It all depends on the individual and the particular head injury.

Cincinnati hopes Burfict's injury is closer to a days departure instead of those tied to weeks or months.

"I can't be concerned with what I can't expect," Lewis said, asked about how Burfict's injury could affect the team. "You'd be wasting concerns."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injuries marred the final minutes of the Cincinnati Bengals' 19-13 preseason win over the Cardinals on Sunday night as three Bengals were carted off University of Phoenix Stadium's field in the fourth quarter alone.

Coach Marvin Lewis didn't have any updates on the injured in the locker room after the game, but he did acknowledge that having to deal with the injuries was "the only negative part" of the night. His defensive starters played well and for the third straight preseason game didn't allow a touchdown. His offense played turnover-free football, and his reserves held their own and played well enough to preserve the win.

Throughout the physical game several Bengals needed medical attention, but it was the injuries to James Wright, T.J. Johnson and Trey Hopkins that caused a series of stoppages and had fans hushed. All three were on the ground for several minutes and needed assistance getting off the field after getting banged up late in the ballgame.

All three also find themselves on the bubble, needing every opportunity they can to make the team.

First, it was Hopkins, the undrafted rookie free agent from Texas. He went down with 12:35 remaining in the game after a couple of players rolled on top of his leg. For some time, trainers evaluated his right leg before a cart came onto the field and he was loaded on it. The Bengals later announced that he had a right shin injury. Hopkins was spotted immediately after the game walking through the locker room with his leg already inside a boot.

As if that moment wasn't enough for the Bengals, two plays later, seventh-round draft pick James Wright required a cart when he went down awkwardly at the end of an attempted touchdown reception. While trying to make the 15-yard catch in the back of the end zone, he took what appeared to be a blow to the head from safety Curtis Taylor's forearm before going down hard to the turf. Instantly after his head hit the ground, Wright's body locked up.

A few minutes went by before medical personnel got him to sit up before helping him onto the cart. He was not strapped onto a stretcher.

On the next drive, running back Cedric Peerman received what appeared to be a serious leg injury but walked off on his own power after getting some treatment on the field. On the drive after that, Johnson went down with an undisclosed issue. Like Hopkins and Wright, a cart eased the offensive lineman into the locker room.

In addition to those injuries, linebacker Vontaze Burfict and defensive tackle Devon Still went down in the first half with hamstring injuries.

When asked if Burfict would be available for the season opener in two weeks, Lewis simply said, "Yes."

The Bengals won't have much time to rest the injured before their preseason finale. With days off Monday and Wednesday, they will only practice Tuesday before Thursday's game at home against the Colts.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A hamstring injury forced Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict's night to come to an end after just one series Sunday in a preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Following the early first-quarter injury, the Bengals announced that he wasn't expected to return. He had two tackles before leaving the game.

Burfict's injury comes at the end of a week in which he didn't participate in the final three practices. He was held out of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's workouts after falling ill. Coaches said he had the same stomach virus that others, such as running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, have battled in recent days.

In addition to barely practicing, Burfict's week also featured news that he had agreed to a four-year contract extension that would pay him about $20 million. The reports may have been premature, though. Burfict still hasn't signed his contract, and the Bengals have yet to make the extension official.
CINCINNATI -- When they enter University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night, the Cincinnati Bengals ought to be a little closer to having a full playing roster than it appeared earlier this week.

At the very least, defensive tackle Geno Atkins and quarterback Jason Campbell will be good to go after working their way back from injuries this week. Coach Marvin Lewis said Friday afternoon that both would be in the lineup this weekend.

 "Geno will go out there with the first group and roll around a little bit," Lewis said. "He's had a great couple of weeks of practice, and he looks like Geno so I'm impressed with that."

For Atkins, Sunday's game will be the first one he has been a part of since last October when he was lost for the 2013 season with an ACL tear on Halloween night. Campbell will be returning after spending the past two weeks sidelined with a bruised elbow. He took a shot in the third quarter of the Bengals' preseason opener at Kansas City when a defender's helmet made contact with his throwing elbow after an attempted pass.

 Campbell participated in practice all this week and threw every day. He tested his arm's strength with a little velocity and distance during Thursday's workout.

Atkins was held out of Friday's practice, but Lewis said that inactivity had no bearing on his playing status Sunday.

Among other players whose status Lewis and the training staff will be keeping an eye on between now and kickoff are offensive tackle Andre Smith and receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. Smith said earlier this week that he hoped to get some extended snaps in at some point during one of the two upcoming preseason games following a concussion he was diagnosed with near the start of training camp. He hasn't appeared in either of the first two preseason games because of the injury.

"We have to see where Andre is, he and Sanzenbacher yet," Lewis said. "They've gone through the week and done what they're supposed to do that way, and now it's just up to the other people to make their judgments."

Sanzenbacher's injury was never disclosed, but he took one hard shot last Saturday against the Jets when he delivered a hard hit on a punt return. It's unclear if that play was related to his problem. After missing Monday, Sanzenbacher practiced the rest of the week.

Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis also are worth keeping tabs on after both missed practice time due to a stomach virus that has been spreading around the team the past two weeks. It's the same virus linebacker Vontaze Burfict has had, and one that could keep him from playing in a type of homecoming game. Burfict played at nearby Arizona State in college.

With the aforementioned injury issues in mind, here's a rundown of the players who were out during the early and open-to-media portion of Friday's practice, one that was attended by several Atlanta Braves including Chris Johnson, Gerald Laird and Ryan Doumit. The Braves are in Cincinnati this weekend as part of a three-game series against the Reds.

As you read this list of injured players, remember that teams aren't required to publish a daily injury report during the preseason:

Did Not Practice
DT Geno Atkins (knee)
LB Vontaze Burfict (stomach bug)
OT Andrew Whitworth (undisclosed)
RB Rex Burkhead (knee)
QB Tyler Wilson (head)
LB J.K. Schaffer (head)
WR Marvin Jones (foot)
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (stomach bug)
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis (hip/stomach bug)
CB Lavelle Westbrooks (undisclosed)

Appeared Limited
CB Darqueze Dennard (hip)

Returned to Practice
DE David King (undisclosed)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
CINCINNATI -- At first, Tyler Eifert was annoyed. Now, he's flat-out frustrated.

The second-year Cincinnati Bengals tight end said Monday that he was growing tired of having to miss time due to what has become a nagging shoulder issue that's unrelated to problems he had at the end of last season.

After missing all of the organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp practices in the spring, and then being limited this past week after having breezed through the first two weeks of training camp without incident, Eifert has neared a breaking points.

"It was annoying in the spring," he said of the injury. "Rehab gets annoying.

"I was just getting back out there at the start of camp, running around and felt healthy and in shape and strong, and now I'm back watching for a little bit, I guess. It's a little frustrating but at the same time you have to get the body right."

Eifert played 19 snaps in the Bengals' Week 1 preseason game at Kansas City, but he was held completely out of the Week 2 contest against the Jets on Saturday.

He wasn't yet sure if he'd be cleared to play Sunday night when the Bengals visit Arizona, but he's trying to make it there. For now, the shoulder won't require surgery, just rest and rehab.

"I'm listed as day to day," Eifert said. "The medical staff says that once I'm comfortable and they say you are not putting yourself at any more risk then I can go out there and test it on the field."

Eifert said he knows the training staff is being patient because it's just the preseason, but added he "obviously would like to get some work for the regular season."

Before Eifert was shifted into a more limited practice role -- he primarily spends his days working on conditioning -- he had been one of quarterback Andy Dalton's top targets. It appears the Bengals are committed to using him more regularly in the seam, and exploiting openings in the secondary deep downfield.