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8/1 WRAP: Palmer ill; Ndukwe lurks; JJ 'embraces'; Graham perfect

Posted Aug 1, 2009

Updated: 10:15 p.m.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Head coach Marvin Lewis indicated after Saturday morning's practice that quarterback Carson Palmer would also work the night shift but will still be under a pitch count in the Bengals' first of four two-a-day practices.

But just before practice Lewis sent word to the media that Palmer wouldn't be out because of an illness. It was not related to his elbow.

As Palmer came back from his injured elbow this spring, Lewis iced him in the second session of two-a-days at minicamp. But Lewis said in the morning he didn't know where the media came up with the idea he'd do the same thing at training camp.

"I don't know who dreamed that up," Lewis said. "We got other guys more work (in minicamp). Sometimes the decisions we make aren't necessarily about Carson, but the other guys to see how the team operates.

"We don’t want to overthrow any of our quarterbacks. He likes to take so many repetitions. We just want to be careful with it."

Corneback David Jones has been seen in a boot and he wasn't in the night practice. Lewis would only call it a "foot injury," and said Jones wouldn't practice Saturday night. The Bengals just got a cornerback out of a boot and on to the field when rookie Morgan Trent made a quick recovery from a foot stress fracture. If Jones has something similar, it's a six-to-eight week injury.

Lewis didn't sound optimistic. Asked if it was day-to-day he said, "Probably not."

Also not practicing was SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty. You'll get a night off in a two-a-day when you have a 15-inch rod in your leg. The Bengals are hoping to prevent the pounding that took him out of much of last training camp.

NIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: Palmer didn't work but maybe it was the lights because wide receiver Chad Ochocinco had his most active practice. He made the catch of the day when quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan rolled out and found The Ocho on the sidelines sneaking behind the waving hands of Trent. Steretching his orange sweat pants all the way out of bounds with his toes dragging the line, Ochocinco made the fingertip grab look easy. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles came from across and made like the ref signalling catch where Ocho caught the ball on the sideline and waving his hands over his head.

» When you have a hillarious nightly show on Twiiter's Ustream like The Ocho, it's hard to break the 11 p.m. curfew. Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski was watching his show Friday night and texted him at 11:05 p.m. to tell him to wrap it up and then the Ocho signed off.

» The offense had a heck of a time trying to block rookie defensive end Michael Johnson on Saturday. His 6-7 frame was making O'Sullivan and Jordan Palmer step up or run out of the pocket. Then for good measure Johnson dropped into coverage and batted a pass away from rookie receiver Freddie Brown.

» The defense was clearly ahead of the offense. Rookie cornerback Rico Murray picked off a pass in 11-on-11 headed down the middle. Shayne Graham was 6-for-6 in the field-goal drill and the last one was a 56-yarder.

ANDRE UPDATE: Lewis gave the media a bit of news when he said there was no news on the Andre Smith negotiations.

"It's not a holdout," Lewis said. "He's an unsigned player. He can't be here at practice by NFL law. So really he's not a holdout. He's barred from being here, right?

"Until he comes to an agreement, his people and our people, he won't be here. When he gets here we'll give him every opportunity to contribute to this football team as quickly as possible. Based on his abilities he'll be able to do that."

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Former Bengals defensive tackle John Thornton literally Twittered about Saturday morning. Thornton, known for his expansive technologial abilities (he was a big help to Bengals.com early in the workout), was only two days into his unofficial retirement when he visited the sidelines. A big fan of "Slants and Screens," Thornton gets the honor Saturday to hit leadoff.

Former linemates Robert Geathers and Antwan Odom yelled at him, "JT, there's no Twittering allowed out here."

That's Lewis' rule for players and media, of which Thornton is now a member as a WLW radio titan. While offering crisp analysis of the D-line to the scribes, Thornton later Twittered his thoughts to the public.

As he watched 9-on-7, he thought defensive tackle Domata Peko's footwork was improved from last year and rookie 265-pound defensive end Michael Johnson's struggles against tackle behemoths Andrew Whitworth and Dennis Roland in one-on-ones reminded him of what rookie Jevon Kearse experienced against Jon Runyan in Thornton's first NFL camp in Tennessee 10 years ago. That didn't highlight Johnson's strengths of speed and athleticism, so Thornton thinks he'll be able to display them in other situations and positions. Plus, he says, Johnson will get better.

Thornton thinks there's enough depth that the Bengals will trade one of their D-lineman before the final cutdown.

Thornton, who turned down a Bengals offer to re-sign at close to the minimum,  also had a pleasant interlude with president Mike Brown. As Brown approached him, he offered, "Hey Boss," and as they shook hands Brown joked that Thornton was in the wrong uniform.

» Here's one reason why rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga is so popular in his first days with the club. For the second straight day he was one of the last guys left signing autographs, and he only broke it off because intern trainer Lamar Moseley told him to. Maualuga had to take the cart in because he began to get a cramp since he was standing so long.

With the first wearing of the shoulder pads Saturday morning, Maualuga, a hard-bitten All-American, admitted he had butterflies. But then "football is football," he said.

» Fullback Jeremi Johnson looked liked he had a pretty good practice. He looked spritely on a sweep and made some powerful goal-line runs. So this may be a very nice, underrated pickup.

Remember JJ? The guy that earned the NFL's richest fullback deal ever in 2005 and nearly made the Pro Bowl in '06 is back after the club cut him last season while he sat out with an injured knee.

But running backs coach Jim Anderson has never given up on him and the Bengals re-signed Johnson back in April. Johnson has responded and looks to have his weight issues under control in the 270 range on his way to 265. After practice Saturday, he said he didn't feel right blocking at 250 pounds in '05.

"When I blocked and got hit, I felt it. That's the first time ever in my life that I felt it. Ever," he said. "My upper body just isn't made to play fullback at 250. That's the year Kenny Watson got hurt and I was helping the team playing some tailback with Rudi (Johnson). The next year I was 265 and felt much better."

At the moment, Johnson is third on the depth chart behind rookie Fui Vakapuna and veteran J.D. Runnels, but he is taking it "one day at a time. ... I've been out for a year and they know it's going to take some time for me to get back into the flow."

Lewis had some kind words for Johnson in his news conference, which is a good sign. But he also sketched out the challenge.

"Jeremi's done well in two practices," Lewis said. "He’s like a lot of other guys. He’s in a battle to try and make the football team, and he’s embracing his chance.”

» Safety Chinedum Ndukwe came up with his second interception of camp in 11-on-11 when Carson Palmer tried to hit tight end Ben Utecht over the middle and the ball was slightly behind him, although offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski wondered if Utecht ran the route "under control." Whatever happened, the ball went off Utecht's hands into Ndukwe's.

» That was one of four third-and-five situations the Bengals couldn't convert and that had Bratkowski displeased because he seeks a success rate of 65 to 70 percent from that distance. On one center Kyle Cook and the QB couldn't convert the shotgun snap, rookie running back Bernard Scott dropped a pitch on another, and Bratkowski blamed the fourth on breakdown in pass protection.

"There's still some rust to shake off," he said.    
 
» There was some concern that No. 3 cornerback David Jones' foot was in a boot after Saturday morning's practice. The Bengals aren't very deep at corner with rookie Morgan Trent, Geoff Pope and rookie free agent Rico Murray the only ones behind starters Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph. It may be serious enough that they have to add a cornerback. With Smith unsigned, there are two open spots. 

A FEW OBSERVATIONS: Cook and massive D-tackle Jason Shirley were having some fun back-and-forth. Shirley bullrushed by him a couple of times in one-on-ones, but the 312-pound Cook also drove the 338-pounder about five yards downfield on one play from scrimmage. The Bengals believe Cook has excellent strength and haven't seen him bullrushed often.

"He's a big, strong guy, he’s smart and understands the game, and he’s able to make the calls and get people put in the right situations all of the time," Lewis said of Cook in his Saturday morning news conference. "He’s also athletic enough to block guys. Can he block the big guys on the nose that we play in this division?  That’s why we need a special guy.  He’s been stout at doing that in practice, so now it’s just a matter of making the transition to playing real football."

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles made a nice juggling catch on the sidelines ... Running back DeDe Dorsey made a nice cut on a run he took to the outside and into the end zone in 9-on-7 ... The I-clock of Cincinnati Enquirer scribe Joe Reedy caught rookie punter Kevin Huber's inconsistency Saturday with hang time. His 11 punts ranged from 4.7 to 3.3 seconds. The high 4s are the gold standard.



 

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