Cincinnati Bengals: Dre Kirkpatrick

HOUSTON -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cincinnati Bengals' 22-13 win against the Houston Texans:

Jersey goes to dad: After exorcising one of his latest demons -- finally winning a game near his hometown -- Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton concluded his postgame news conference with an interesting gesture. As he stepped from the lectern, he grabbed his neatly folded, grass-stained, game-worn jersey and autographed it with the score and the date before giving it to his father, Greg. A native of nearby Katy, Texas, Andy Dalton was 0-2 in Houston before Sunday. In the win, he was 24-for-35 for 233 yards and a touchdown and an interception.

Packing it up: An exuberant Dre Kirkpatrick was one of the first Bengals dressed after the game. Inside NRG Stadium's rather spacious visitors locker room, the third-year cornerback walked toward his locker and shouted with joy as he tried to get his teammates to speed along the changing and packing process. "Let's pack this thing up and go home, boys!" The Bengals have now won two straight road games ahead of a third next week at Tampa Bay.

Cincy's own Watt: While the typically effective J.J. Watt was slowed across the final three quarters by backup offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse, the Bengals still respect the defensive end's dominating style of play. Offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth respected it so much that he believes it's time the Bengals start seeing their own version of Watt in receiver A.J. Green. "The fact of the matter is, he's a dominant football player and a great one. We need him to be our J.J. Watt," Whitworth said of Green. "We need him to dominate people and let them know about it. Not necessarily with talk, but let them know about it with confidence and that swagger. 'If you want to cover me, then try.' We need him to be that way." Green caught 12 passes for 121 yards Sunday.
NEW ORLEANS -- Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals made it through a game with minimal injury hits.

Though there will be attention paid the next few days to defensive end Margus Hunt, who left at the end of the first quarter with a right ankle injury, the Bengals came out of Sunday's 27-10 win against the New Orleans Saints healthier than they have in any other game.

After the game, Hunt was spotted carrying crutches and with his right foot encased in a walking boot. He said he would be OK.

Along with Hunt, the Bengals also lost cornerback Leon Hall in the second half after he experienced soreness in one of his Achilles. The Bengals indicated that he could have returned to the game, but coaches decided to sit him the rest of the way.

Hunt and Hall's injuries meant the Bengals were able to replace them with a pair of rookies who received meaningful game action. Third-round pick Will Clarke got his most extensive game action in place of Hunt after being activated before the game for only the second time this season. Clarke's activation on the defensive line corresponded with defensive tackle Devon Still being declared inactive for the first time since the season opener.

With Dre Kirkpatrick already helping cover cornerback Terence Newman's (knee) injury absence, the Bengals were forced into moving rookie Darqueze Dennard into Hall's spot late in the game.

Clarke played a career-high 10 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Dennard played 15.

Every game has been a battle for the Bengals on the injury front. Entering Sunday's game, they have had at least one starter each week since the opener miss a game because of an ailment suffered the week before. In several cases, that has meant multiple games missed.

Linebacker Rey Maualuga was among those who missed several weeks. Before this game, he was out the previous four because of a serious hamstring injury. He bounced back from it to play almost half the defense's snaps.

Also of note: the entire Bengals offensive line played all 62 snaps.

Here, with help from our friends at PRo Football Focus and the NFL's Game Statistics and Information System, are this week's complete Bengals play counts:

OFFENSE (62 plays)*
OG Clint Boling (62), OT Andrew Whitworth (62), OG Kevin Zeitler (62), OT Marshall Newhouse (62), C Russell Bodine (62), QB Andy Dalton (62), WR A.J. Green (56), TE Jermaine Gresham (55), WR Mohamed Sanu (54), RB Jeremy Hill (49), Ryan Hewitt (40), WR James Wright (21), TE Kevin Brock (15), RB Rex Burkhead (7), RB Cedric Peerman (6), WR Brandon Tate (5), FB/DT Domata Peko (2).

DEFENSE (71 plays)*
S George Iloka (70), CB Adam Jones (69), S Reggie Nelson (69), LB Emmanuel Lamur (67), LB Vincent Rey (66), DE Carlos Dunlap (59), DE Wallace Gilberry (53), CB Hall (53), DT Geno Atkins (49), DT Peko (45), CB Kirkpatrick (43), DE Robert Geathers (43), LB Maualuga (35), DT Brandon Thompson (21), CB Dennard (15), DE Clarke (10), DE Hunt (5), S Taylor Mays (4), S Shawn Williams (3), LB Nico Johnson (2).

SPECIAL TEAMS (20 plays)**
LB Jayson DiManche (15), Williams (15), Mays (13), Peerman (13), Wright (12), Burkhead (11), K Mike Nugent (10), Johnson (10), Kirkpatrick (10), Hewitt (10), Dennard (10), LS Clark Harris (7), P Kevin Huber (7), Peko (7), Nelson (7), Brock (6), Newhouse (5), Boling (5), Zeitler (5), Whitworth (5), Gresham (5), OG Mike Pollak (5), LB Marquis Flowers (5), Jones (3), Tate (3), Clarke (2), Hunt (2), Lamur (2), Rey (2), Dunlap (2), Hall (2), Thompson (2), Geathers (1), CB Chris Lewis-Harris (1).

Note: *Counts come from PFF. **Counts come from NFL's GSIS.
CINCINNATI -- Dre Kirkpatrick was laughing when he said it, but he was serious.

If the Cincinnati Bengals are no longer in the Super Bowl hunt in late January, he wants to make the Pro Bowl as a special teamer.

"Y'all got to get me in there," Kirkpatrick said earlier this week, half-joking with reporters. "Ramp this thing up."

It wasn't the first time he mentioned the end-of-season all-star game, and it probably won't be the last, especially if he continues playing the way he has on the Bengals' punt coverage team. As one of the team's star gunners, he has helped punter Kevin Huber lead the NFL in net punting average by getting downfield quickly enough to record tackles deep in opposing territory, and down Huber's kicks as close to the goal line as possible.

In addition to leading the league with his 44.1-yard net punting average, Huber also has the highest percentage of punts to get downed inside the 10- and 5-yard lines. Kirkpatrick has downed the many of them. So have Darqueze Dennard, Cedric Peerman and James Wright, other key contributors to the Bengals' punt coverage team.

"He's playing fast," Huber said of Kirkpatrick. "He's hitting his stride right now where he's getting out quick, making a good move off the line. He's naturally fast. He's got the ability once he gets a step on a guy that they have no chance to get him.

"He's taking pride in his special teams play. He's taken that to heart and put everything he can into it."

Kirkpatrick admitted last week to fighting frustrations related to being relegated to the bottom of the Bengals' depth chart at cornerback. Three veterans are playing ahead of him, and he's splitting time with the rookie Dennard in a backup capacity. Despite those frustrations, though, he has realized his best chance of getting on the field is to continue performing well on special teams.

"That's his role on our team right now," special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said. "Until he's told differently, that's his contribution to our team."

Huber, who claimed punter of the week honors Tuesday from ESPN Stats & Information's Mark Simon for a third time, credited Kirkpatrick and the other gunners for helping erase some of his mistakes this season.

"My punt team is bailing me out," Huber said. "I've got faith in the gunners that they are going to get down there and make plays. You can be a little bit more aggressive when you have that. At the same time, you don't want to be overly aggressive and pipe the ball as far down the field as you can and not even give them a chance. You still have to give them the opportunity to get down the field and get in position."

Huber has been doing that so far, and it's worked out quite well for Cincinnati. But time will tell if Kirkpatrick does enough to make it to Arizona for the Pro Bowl.

"It's a passion. You're fighting for your brothers," Kirkpatrick said of his punt-team duties. "They're out there going hard so I feel like it's my job to go out there and go hard. Because of that, I feel like I'm one of the best gunners in the league."
CINCINNATI -- For all of nine seconds Sunday there was a nervous energy inside Paul Brown Stadium.

The 19-3 lead the Cincinnati Bengals had built, vanished. Suddenly, the rout was no more as the Jacksonville Jaguars scored on Denard Robinson's 5-yard touchdown run to cut Cincinnati's lead to three. With the fourth quarter entering its midway point, the Bengals needed a jolt.

On the opening play of the ensuing drive, rookie running back Jeremy Hill reestablished calm in the stadium when he ripped off a 60-yard touchdown run that had Bengals fans jumping once again.

The Bengals held on to beat the one-win Jaguars, 33-23.

It wasn't the prettiest victory, but it was a win.

"We fought, we scratched we clawed. It was ugly," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "But like they say, even the ugly ones count."

The Bengals dropped three for-sure interceptions and had another two either ripped away or batted away by opposing pass-catchers. They also had six penalties. And they threw two interceptions, including one that bounced off offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth's back at the line of scrimmage before getting intercepted by J.T. Thomas.

"It's part of the game. That's what makes football so special," Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said about the seesaw nature of games in the NFL. "You can be up 14 and in two minutes, you're down by three. That's just the beauty of the game. In all phases, you've just got to be ready."

Sunday's win in spite of everything that went wrong showed the Bengals that maybe their luck was beginning to change. In previous games, dropped interceptions came back to haunt them, as did wacky plays like Thomas' interception.

"That let's you know that when you're able to make mistakes like that and have breakdowns in the defense so to speak, and still come out on top, that says a lot about your team," Gilberry said. "But at the end of the day, we've got to play better."

Ugly football is part of the Jaguars' persona for right now. In a certain sense an argument could be made that the 5-2-1 Bengals played down to the level of their opponent. Gilberry would caution that line of thinking.

"That's a good team, man. I don't care what nobody says," Gilberry said. "They're young, and when they find out how to win, you're going to have to deal with them. Mark my words."
CINCINNATI -- As a former first-round pick, the wait to enter the Cincinnati Bengals' starting cornerback rotation has been long and, at times, frustrating for Dre Kirkpatrick.

 He certainly didn't believe when he was drafted that by the middle of his third season that he still would be fighting to climb the defensive depth chart. By this point, he thought he would be fending off challengers who were competing to take playing time from him.

"Coach [Marvin Lewis] knows I'm ready. I work hard every day," Kirkpatrick said. "It's a mental thing when it comes to that. Sitting back, just preparing. Trying to be ready for the game. Coach knows I'm ready. I'm ready. I just have to continue to be patient. Hopefully when my time comes I go out there and do what I have to do."

But the fact is, he probably wasn't going to see much action the first few years of his career. Veterans Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones played well the past two seasons, despite occasional injuries. Hamstring and knee problems briefly sidelined Newman and Jones last year, while Hall only played the first half of the season because of a torn Achilles.

Those injuries caused Kirkpatrick's playing time to increase last season, but this year he hasn't had much reason to play. The vets are all healthy and playing some of their best ball. At 36, Newman appears in a career renaissance. Jones' pesky play has prevented most receivers from burning him deep. Only Steve Smith has that honor, getting past on a go route in the season opener.

How can a benched Kirkpatrick keep his wits? By continuing to soak up information from his older peers and to execute when he does play.

"I just continue to learn from those guys," Kirkpatrick said. "It's always going to be frustrating when you want to play. I've never really had to just sit. But it's a respect thing, also. Those guys are very good at what they do. Hopefully, I can be here 10 years, 12 years and a younger guy may be saying that about me."

Kirkpatrick has appeared on defense in all but two games. He received his most action in the Week 3 blowout over the Titans when he was on the field for 12 plays. Last week against Baltimore, he relieved Newman for three plays, even helping on a third-quarter pass defense. In all, he has five tackles on defense.

Where Kirkpatrick has made his biggest impact is on special teams. As one of two first-round picks at gunner -- fellow cornerback Darqueze Dennard plays opposite Kirkpatrick -- he's been a key part of punter Kevin Huber's strong season. Kirkpatrick has four special teams tackles this season and routinely has been the first Bengal downfield at the end of Huber's punts. As a result of getting down so quickly, Kirkpatrick has both corralled returners almost immediately and downed several punts deep in opposing territory.

Across two games, Huber had consecutive punts downed at the opposing 4-, 1- and 2-yard lines. Against Tennessee alone, he had three stop inside the 10. Kirkpatrick downed one and Dennard had a tackle on another.

"Coming up in college, it's all about a role," Kirkpatrick said. "Here, you're learning that you can make game-changing plays with little adjustments. That's one of the things that [the veteran corners] are very good at, and one of the things I'm learning and Darqueze is going to learn.

"I'm in a room full of smart guys and you can learn a lot from them."

For now, that's all Kirkpatrick can do: keep learning and keep waiting.

Behind the Bengals' Week 3 snap counts

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
CINCINNATI -- Only two Cincinnati Bengals played 100 percent of the snaps on their side of the ball in Sunday's 33-7 win.

That is a byproduct of a 26-point victory that was effectively decided in the first half.

Thanks to the lopsided win, the Bengals were able to give many of their starters a few breaks Sunday. Quarterback Andy Dalton, for example, played 87 percent of the offensive snaps. He and most of the starters left late in fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Jason Campbell entered and played eight snaps with the second-team.

It's very rare during the regular season for a team to have the luxury of resting its starters, so the Bengals were quick to take advantage.

There were no injury issues in Sunday's game that affected the way the snap counts broke down. The two injured contributors on defense who left the game late suffered injuries around the time they likely would have been replaced. After the game, coach Marvin Lewis intimated that Margus Hunt and Emmanuel Lamur would be fine to play in two weeks when the Bengals return from their bye with a Sunday night game at New England.

One regular contributor whose snap counts were considerably lower Sunday than they were last week was running back Jeremy Hill. He played 18 fewer snaps in Week 3 than in Week 2.

Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was one backup who received more defensive snaps than he has at any other point this season. They were mostly costly ones, too. Kirkpatrick had two personal foul penalties, one of which set up the Titans' lone touchdown. Both of Kirkpatrick's infractions came on the same drive.

Here are this week's complete snap counts with help from Pro Football Focus and the NFL's Game Statistics and Information System:

OFFENSE (62 plays)*
OG Clint Boling (62), C Russell Bodine (62), OT Andre Smith (60), OG Mike Pollak (59), OT Andrew Whitworth (54), QB Andy Dalton (54), TE Jermaine Gresham (49), WR Mohamed Sanu (48), WR A.J. Green (47), RB Giovani Bernard (40), WR Brandon Tate (33), H-back Ryan Hewitt (31), RB Jeremy Hill (15), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (14), OT Marshall Newhouse (12), TE Kevin Brock (9), WR James Wright (9), QB Jason Campbell (8), RB Cedric Peerman (8), OG T.J. Johnson (3), FB/DT Domata Peko (3), OT Tanner Hawkinson (2).

DEFENSE (71 plays)*
S George Iloka (70), CB Terence Newman (61), S Reggie Nelson (61), CB Adam Jones (59), LB Emmanuel Lamur (56), LB Vincent Rey (49), DE Carlos Dunlap (48), CB Leon Hall (46), DE Wallace Gilberry (45), Peko (43), DE Robert Geathers (42), LB Rey Maualuga (41), DT Geno Atkins (40), DE Margus Hunt (27), DT Devon Still (26), CB Darqueze Dennard (16), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (14), S Taylor Mays (10), S Shawn Williams (10), DE Will Clarke (8), LB Jayson DiManche (7), LB Marquis Flowers (2).

SPECIAL TEAMS (25 plays)**
DiManche (21), Williams (21), Flowers (19), Peerman (17), Mays (17), Kirkpatrick (16), Dennard (15), Hunt (14), Wright (13), K Mike Nugent (11), Nelson (10), LS Clark Harris (9), P Kevin Huber (9), Hewitt (9), Rey (8), Peko (8), Brock (7), Tate (7), Lamur (5), Newhouse (5), Gresham (5), Whitworth (5), Pollak (5), Smith (5), Bodine (5), Dunlap (3), Still (3), Jones (3), Newman (2), Hall (2), Maualuga (2), Clarke (2), Sanzenbacher (1), Sanu (1), Bernard (1).
*Counts come from PFF.
**Counts come from the NFL's GSIS.
CINCINNATI -- Thanks to one 49-yard punt and a pair of late-game drives that were downed near the Atlanta Falcons' goal line, Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber earned this week's punter of the week honors.

The punter of the week is named each Tuesday by ESPN stats guru Mark Simon. He uses a combination of basic stats and situational performance in order to make his choice.

As you can read below, Simon says that Huber's two fourth-quarter punts made him a strong candidate for this week's honors. With the Bengals up by 14 on a Falcons team that was trying to desperately come back late, Huber dropped a pair of punts inside the 10-yard line that the Bengals' coverage team downed before they rolled into the end zone. One was downed at the Atlanta 4. Another at the Atlanta 1. Neither time could the Falcons drive the length of the field and score.

Long snapper Clark Harris was among those who helped pin the Falcons deep, as did gunner Dre Kirkpatrick, who even got behind return man Devin Hester on both occasions to serve as a last line of defense on the kicks.

Kirkpatrick expressed to me his excitement for coming away with the clutch stops after the game. With him off the field on defense, the cornerback/coverage team player said he wanted to do anything he could to contribute to the win.

Head coach Marvin Lewis discussed the two punts -- Huber had four overall -- in his news conference Monday.

"Obviously, they've got to score touchdowns in order to get back into the football game, and to make them have to go 90-plus yards, you can't write a better script than that, other than not giving them the ball," Lewis said. "For Dre Kirkpatrick to go down and down those balls like he did, and the one to reach out and dive and knock it back was important. Those are big hits by Kevin to get it up there where we have a chance to make a play on it like that.

"You hate when you're on the other of that, and unfortunately, I've been there, too."

Here's how Simon described meting out his award:
Late in a game, it is a punter’s job to put the opposing team in as difficult a position to score as possible.

Huber did that in a big way in the Bengals’ 24-10 win over the Falcons.

With Cincinnati up 14 in the fourth quarter, Huber downed back-to-back punts at the Falcons 2 and 4-yard lines. The Bengals would hang on for the victory.

Over the last two seasons, this is the sort of thing at which Huber has excelled. He ranks third in the NFL in percentage of punts resulting in possession inside the 10 (19 percent), well better than the league average of 11 percent.
CINCINNATI -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Cincinnati Bengals' 24-10 victory over the Atlanta Falcons:

Posters for Still: Sitting just inside Devon Still's locker late Sunday afternoon after the win was an orange poster that read: "Be Leah Strong." A fan had requested the poster be brought into the locker room for the defensive tackle who began the season on the practice squad due to a hamstring injury and because of his anxiety over 4-year-old daughter Leah's cancer prognosis. To his surprise, Still had been kept earlier in the day on the active game-day roster. In relief of an injured Brandon Thompson, he had three tackles.

'A good night': When reporters streamed into the Bengals' locker room, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was among the most jovial players they encountered. The backup defender was shouting at the top of his lungs: "Tonight's gonna be a good night." Those are lyrics from the Black Eyed Peas song "I Gotta Feeling." On special teams, Kirkpatrick played a key role in securing two fourth-quarter punts that were downed inside the Falcons' 4.

Shouting 'Gio!' On one second-quarter play, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was stuck behind some intense Falcons pressure and needed to get rid of the ball. So he shouted out "Gio!" to running back Giovani Bernard, who had just pulled away from a linebacker he was blocking in pass protection. Bernard said when he heard his name, he instinctively caught Dalton's improvisational screen pass. Bernard ended the broken play with a 46-yard reception.

Football trophy: Bengals rookie Jeremy Hill scored his first career touchdown in the third quarter when he plowed right behind defensive tackle Domata Peko (who was playing fullback) for a 1-yard score. Hill said he has the perfect place for the ball which he held on to -- his mom's mantel in New Orleans. She was in attendance Sunday. "I'll probably lose it or my dog will probably chew it up," Hill said, laughing.
CINCINNATI -- With Tyler Eifert now gone until Week 10 at the earliest, the Cincinnati Bengals will have to deviate slightly from the offensive gameplan they were setting up in the offseason. Back then, the plan was to make Eifert an even bigger contributor to the system than he had been a year ago. Now, it appears that won't be the case. A dislocated elbow, suffered last Sunday in the Bengals' 23-16 win at Baltimore, has Eifert out for several weeks on the short-term injury list. He'll be unable to practice for another six weeks, and he can't play for another three after that. So Week 10 is his target. At this early stage, he appears on track to make his comeback then. In the meantime, Cincinnati now must turn to other playmakers to catch passes. Tight end Jermaine Gresham appears a prime candidate to take over. Will he? That's where we begin with this week's mailbag:

@ColeyHarvey: It's clear that Eifert's injury means Jermaine Gresham will have to respond by being the pass-catching tight end many around the league know he can be. Against the Baltimore Ravens last week, he was targeted five times but only caught two passes. He had a third that would have been a touchdown but he stopped the route short. Had he taken another two steps, he would have caught the ball and glided easily across the goal-line untouched. Gresham told reporters earlier this week that he knows he's got the weight of the tight end position group on his shoulders now. And while he's convinced that some of you believe he can't handle it, let me assure you of this: He can. He has been one of the best receiving tight ends in the red zone since his career started in 2010. Only two tight ends in his deep and talented, tight end-rich draft class have better career receiving numbers -- Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. An argument could be made that they are clearly the best receivers on their teams. Cincinnati has A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu and (eventually) Marvin Jones to also get the ball to. Still, the fact of the matter is that Gresham will have to step up by playing a calm, measured, productive and penalty-free next few weeks. I do believe he'll have a strong first half of the year now.

@ColeyHarvey: Really soon, CoachQuis. That's not to say Jeremy Hill was completely non-existent last week when the Bengals visited the Ravens. On the contrary, he was present, appearing on 10 plays and rushing four times for 19 yards. It's that 4.8 yards per carry average that had to have coaches and fans alike impressed with the rookie's limited production. He showed that he can move the ball and won't have negative carries with those numbers. He also proved that even in a hostile environment like Baltimore, he wouldn't be too flustered. The stage wasn't too big for him, even in the brief amount of time he played. I'm certain we'll see him participate a little more this weekend when he and the Bengals meet a Falcons offense that gave up 5.0 yards per carry last week against New Orleans. One way the Bengals can absorb the loss of Eifert is to expand their running game slightly.

@ColeyHarvey: Well, BestHealthcareJobs, I'll go out on a limb right now and say that we will see Darqueze Dennard play Sunday against the Falcons. I haven't been told that explicitly, but from what I can tell, it appears his hip is healthy enough to give it a go this week. They'll need him, too. With the three- and four-receiver looks the Atlanta Falcons are known to give, we'll see a lot of nickel and dime defense from the Bengals. We'll also probably see a number of rotations as they try to keep the corners, safeties -- and in the case of Emmanuel Lamur, linebackers -- fresh. It's certainly possible both play more than 10 snaps this week simply because of the Falcons' scheme.

@ColeyHarvey: Man, I really had to think long and hard about this one, Adam. From a skill position player standpoint, I'd say receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. He's well known in this area because of his ties to Ohio State, but he may not be known much outside of southwest Ohio. He's a shifty receiver who can play in the slot and have an impact there, and he can be a nice special teams addition as a backup returner. The impact player whom I really believe is under the radar, though, is right offensive guard Kevin Zeitler. He had a good preseason camp and has completely reshaped his body through diet and intense workout regimens to make himself stronger than he was in the past. He could be key in the Bengals' rushing attack this season. 
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 -- After a week out of the rotation, quarterback Jason Campbell returned to the Cincinnati Bengals' practices Monday afternoon, giving the team three reasonably healthy signal-callers once again.

[+] EnlargeJason Campbell
John Rieger/USA TODAY SportsBengals quarterback Jason Campbell sits on the ground after being hit in his throwing elbow by a Chiefs player in their Aug. 7 preseason game.
The team's No. 4 quarterback, Tyler Wilson -- added to the roster after Campbell's bruised elbow came in Week 1 of the preseason -- didn't practice after suffering a head injury near the end of Saturday's 25-17 preseason loss to the Jets.

Late Monday morning, before practice, Campbell told reporters he was hopeful about playing Sunday when the Bengals visit Arizona in arguably the most important game of the preseason. The Week 3 game typically is the one in which the starters and second-string offense see their most extended action of the preseason. Since Campbell hasn't had many opportunities to play and practice in the past week, he's hoping to play to show he's better than the two-interception performance that spoiled his brief outing against the Chiefs two weeks ago.

"That's my goal, is to be able to get some reps and get back on the field," the Bengals' No. 2 quarterback said. "I really want to get back out there and build some chemistry with these guys. I know I have a lot of experience, but at the same time timing is everything in the passing game."

Campbell went 6-for-15, passing for 72 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason opener at Kansas City. He had a passer rating of 55.4 when he left after being struck hard in his throwing elbow by a defender's helmet.

He said that he would not have been able to play in last Saturday's game against the Jets because the swelling in his elbow hadn't quite gone down. When he arrived for treatment early Monday, he said it had gone down considerably.

During the open portion of the pad-less, shorts only workout -- the Bengals' first practice since training camp ended last week -- Campbell was throwing like the other quarterbacks. He didn't seem to be visibly favoring his elbow.

"I'm doing a lot better," Campbell said.

Here's a look at the rest of the Bengals' unofficial injury update (the team isn't expected to put out an official report until the regular season begins):

Returned to practice
CB Dre Kirkpatrick (hip)
RB Jeremy Hill (shoulder)*

Appeared to be limited
LB Sean Porter (knee)
QB Jason Campbell (elbow)

At practice, in jersey but not practicing
CB Darqueze Dennard (hip)*
TE Tyler Eifert (shoulder)
DE Dontay Moch (undisclosed)
WR James Wright (ankle)*

Not practicing
QB Tyler Wilson (head)*
LB J.K. Schaffer (head)*
WR Marvin Jones (foot)
QB AJ McCarron (shoulder)
OL Mike Pollak (knee)
RB Rex Burkhead (knee)*
*Denotes injury that occurred in Saturday's game against the Jets.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 14

August, 12, 2014
Aug 12
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • Marvin Jones' broken foot has dominated the headlines in Cincinnati this week. There have been questions about when he will return, how healthy he will return and how the Bengals will get by in his absence. On Tuesday afternoon, they got a bit of an answer to the latter inquiry. One day after the Bengals practiced an hour away at West Carrollton High School just outside Dayton, Ohio, tight end Jermaine Gresham was the star Tuesday. He was used in the seam, he was put into his typical tight end drags, and he even went up for fades in the end zone as part of a goal-line passing play. Unofficially, I recorded him with having six catches during the practice. It's possible he caught one more I didn't see. Following one of the six I observed -- a 15-yard touchdown reception near the right pylon in a red-zone segment -- Gresham got immediate kudos from his quarterback, Andy Dalton. "I like it, Jermaine!" Dalton shouted before jogging over and giving the tight end a high five.
  • That touchdown completion wasn't the only pass caught from Dalton's right hand. In all, the starting signal-caller was 23-for-34 passing in one of his most prolific passing practices of training camp. The loss of Jason Campbell to an elbow injury (he still isn't yet practicing) in the preseason opener last Thursday may have had a slight impact. While backups Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson still got their practice reps in, Dalton seemed to be used a little more than he has been in practices before Campbell's injury. Another part of Dalton's extended work had to do with the fact the Bengals were in full pads for only the fourth time this camp. They hadn't worn the full attire since the Saturday before last.
  • Among the work the Bengals got in offensively and defensively were situational drills that pertained to third downs, no-huddle, red zone and goal-line opportunities. The offense owned certain situations. The defense won its share of battles, too. It seemed like the defense was best in one of the red-zone situations, while the offense got into a rhythm on third downs. One of the highlights of the day came when cornerback Leon Hall slipped underneath A.J. Green in a 7-on-7 drill and jumped right in front of a Dalton pass, making a one-handed grab to intercept it. Dalton's eyes appeared to follow Green throughout the route, telegraphing his pass to the defensive player. It was Dalton's worst passing read of camp to this point. After the play, Hall was seen shaking his hand. He may have had difficulty handling the velocity of the short pass. Dalton got his payback, connecting perfectly with Green on two well-placed balls his next two tries. Another pass later in the practice was thrown just ahead of Hall, who couldn't catch receiver Dane Sanzenbacher for a would-be touchdown. The wideout had a step on Hall.
  • Tuesday's injury update: Domata Peko (concussion), Wallace Gilberry (leg) and Andre Smith (concussion) all returned from injuries but were limited. None participated in 11-on-11 drills. Dre Kirkpatrick (hip), Geno Atkins (knee), Brandon Thompson (illness), Sean Porter (knee), Campbell (elbow), AJ McCarron (shoulder) and Jones (foot) didn't practice. Kirkpatrick told me he expects to play Saturday against the Jets. At the end of Tuesday's practice, offensive tackle Marshall Newhouse was carted off. Coach Marvin Lewis wasn't immediately sure what happened.
  • Up next: The Bengals are back on the practice fields Wednesday for a 3 p.m. ET practice. It will be their penultimate open session for the season.
CINCINNATI -- It was arguably the most attention-grabbing play in a game full of highlight-worthy catches, returns and turnovers.

After Kansas City Chiefs punt returner De'Anthony Thomas narrowly avoided a big collision as he caught a late-first quarter punt Thursday night, the speedster reversed course and raced clear past the Cincinnati Bengals' coverage unit 80 yards for a touchdown that tied the preseason opener at 10. It was a wild play in a game that had many of them. All told, including the ground he covered running across the field, the rookie Thomas ran 114.3 yards on the return.

What led to the breakdown for the Bengals?

A number of things. Poor tackling and poor angles -- particularly on the back side of the return -- didn't help. They combined to open an alley that Thomas ran through without being touched. Before those became issues, though, Dre Kirkpatrick, who was closing in on delivering a big tackle as soon as Thomas caught the ball, got spun around by his defender while trying to avoid early contact with the returner.

"The guy pushed me in the back," Kirkpatrick said of the blocker.

Kirkpatrick, as the gunner on punt coverage, was trying to not let what he believed was a push in the back run him into Thomas.

"That's one of those plays where if you hit the guy before he catches the ball, and you didn't give him room to properly catch the ball, they probably would have thrown a flag," Kirkpatrick said. "I should have made the tackle once I touched him [since] they didn't call it. It was just one of those bang-bang plays."

As he tried to avoid contact with Thomas, Kirkpatrick angled his body in a way that didn't allow him to attempt a tackle, despite the fact he and the blocker still crashed into the returner a split-second after he caught the ball. Thomas then bounced off the contact, spun to his right and found the soft zone in the Bengals' coverage unit. With a couple of timely blocks and a missed tackle, he sprinted into the aforementioned alley.

"Like I said, I have 10 other guys behind me," Kirkpatrick said. "We just have to make our mistakes up."

Coach Marvin Lewis agreed with Kirkpatrick that he wasn't solely at fault for the score.

"He did a good job releasing as the gunner," Lewis said of Kirkpatrick. "The gunners are going to make that kind of juke and move -- that's their job -- all the time because they're used to getting double-teamed. [The Chiefs] did a nice job beating it over the top, and we would like to get [the returner] down. There's a lot of people that have to make that play."

About four minutes later, Kirkpatrick made up for his part of the botched return when he intercepted backup Chiefs quarterback Chase Daniel, and returned the turnover 40 yards for a touchdown. Kirkpatrick read the route all the way, watching Daniel's eyes follow a tight end who was racing across the field.

"The ball kind of came off his hand funny," Kirkpatrick said. "I was there, and I'm going to take presents, if you give them to me."

Rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard was in the area and delivered a timely block on a receiver to spring Kirkpatrick free for the score. One play prior, Dennard also came off the edge for a sack.

Bengals Camp Report: Day 7

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
CINCINNATI -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Cincinnati Bengals training camp:
  • As compelling, edge-of-your seat excitement goes, Thursday's practice, from an observer's standpoint, ranked somewhere around a 3 on a 0-to-10 scale. I'm sure it's possible for coaches and players to view it much differently. During what was a special teams-heavy workout, there were very few 11-on-11 drills that featured as much worth noting as there had been in days past. When the Bengals did get into offense vs. defense action, they did so at a rather conservative pace. There was no hitting (players were in shorts and shoulder pads for the second straight day), and plays were run at a significantly slower speed than how they'll be executed in games. We ought to point out that while the players might not have been running at the same speed they soon will be, they still got into a bit of a hurry-up pace as coaches had them go through a few two-minute-drill plays.
  • To be sure, a day like Thursday had probably long been on the schedule as the Bengals try to mix in light, low-speed days with their hit-filled afternoons. It couldn't have come at a better time, too. Cincinnati is dealing with a couple of camp injuries, including four players sidelined with head issues. Linebackers J.K. Schaffer and Jayson DiManche, offensive tackle Andre Smith and tight end Kevin Brock remained on concussion protocol.
  • One day after receiving medical clearance to practice again, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins was back on the sidelines. He didn't participate in any of Wednesday's team drills, only really taking part in the position-specific exercises that came before practice. Coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday that Atkins wouldn't be rushed back into the line rotation. Coaches and trainers want to ease him back into the mix. When I asked defensive coordinator Paul Guenther after practice about Atkins, he indicated there wasn't anything to worry about. The day off was part of the slow process of getting Atkins back onto the field fully, he said.
  • To close out the day's injury report, it's worth noting that both Mike Pollak and Clint Boling took a day off. They had been trading off days at left guard until this point. In their place, undrafted free agent Trey Hopkins got repetitions at the position. Hopkins is beginning to look like the undrafted free agent who stands the best chance at making the 53-man roster. While Pollak and Boling didn't even dress, defensive tackle Domata Peko and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick did. Both participated fully in the practice after not working out Wednesday. Kirkpatrick hadn't practiced since Saturday.
  • As mentioned before, Day 7 was all about special teams. In particular, the Bengals were working on their kickoff coverage and kickoff returns. Routine deep kicks, squib kicks and onside kicks were part of what they practiced. After the bulk of the kickoff activities, in an 11-on-11, quarterback Andy Dalton was nearly perfect, going 9-for-10. His lone incompletion came when defensive end Robert Geathers broke up a pass at the line of scrimmage. Dalton might have had another incompletion had safety George Iloka been able to sprint at game speed. Iloka had closed on tight end Tyler Eifert, who barely caught a pass in the seam before Iloka pulled up. Later in that drill, on the very last play, came the highlight of the day. Seventh-round receiver James Wright, who didn't catch a pass last season at LSU, caught a key first-down pass on a third-and-5 play. A.J. Green gave him a high-five after the reception.
  • Up next: The Bengals won't practice until 6 p.m. Friday, in a workout that's open to the public.
CINCINNATI -- As the Cincinnati Bengals get going with Day 6 of training camp Wednesday, here are three items we are going to be watching:

Quickening the tempo? Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson told reporters Monday afternoon that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the offense's tempo hasn't quite been as fast as he would like. The Bengals have had just five practices and are just entering the midpoint of their "training camp" portion of the preseason. So there still is plenty of time to get the offense into high gear like Jackson desires. Might we see the pace pick up beginning Wednesday? It is something to watch.

Injury updates: Also worthy of attention will be any injury updates as the Bengals come off Tuesday's off day. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick's status was enough of a question mark Monday that he missed his second straight practice with a hamstring injury. Veterans Geno Atkins, Andrew Whitworth, Jermaine Gresham and Marvin Jones are among those who haven't practiced this camp, continuing to rehab injuries.

Developing Dennard: With the veteran cornerbacks (Terence Newman, Leon Hall and Adam Jones) rotating off days last week, rookie corner Darqueze Dennard played regularly in place of whichever member of the trio was taking the day to rest. Dennard also has appeared regularly on special teams, working on punt return and kickoff coverage units. Special teams will be the way he and most rookies will primarily see game action this season, but if he continues to cover the way he has early in camp, he might in fact see his share of defensive action this season, too. We'll be keeping an eye on how consistent his play remains this week.