CINCINNATI -- Earlier this week, the Cincinnati Bengals learned they could be without one a key defensive back for the next three weeks. While they remained optimistic that another banged-up member of the secondary would be healthy enough to play this coming weekend, there was still some uncertainty that he actually would.
Two days after the Bengals found out veteran cornerback Terence Newman might miss multiple games because of an MCL sprain suffered against the Colts, Cincinnati's training staff was able to clear safety George Iloka of the concussion protocol.
Iloka was put on the protocol Sunday after leaving the game thanks to a hit to the helmet. As soon as he went on it, he was anxious to come right off.
"It doesn't matter what injury it is, I just want to get out there as soon as I can," Iloka said. "But you've got to let those doctors do their job. That's what they're paid to do."
The second-year safety practiced Wednesday in the Bengals' first practice of the week. This Sunday, they travel to Pittsburgh for a nighttime division contest against the Steelers.
With Iloka on the field, the Bengals will keep one part of their secondary intact, even while another undergoes a bit of a makeover because of Newman's injury. Had Iloka missed time, Cincinnati would have had two positions to find replacements for this weekend. Second-year corner Dre Kirkpatrick is taking Newman's place, getting the first start of his career.
Iloka said the protocol waiting game -- as brief as it comparatively was -- was frustrating. Still, with the NFL's emphasis on alleviating head injuries, he understood why he had to go through it.
"Oh, I know the big picture. I want to be healthy when I grow up," Iloka said. "But I also feel like I know my body better than anyone else.
"But they obviously went to school for 10-plus years and they know [what they're talking about]. But I still feel like I know my body so that's just how it is. But hats off to them because they're just doing their job like anybody else, and so I respect what they do in trying to make sure players are safe and 100 percent OK before they get back in. There's no ill will towards anybody. I'll be ready to go this week."