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Camp report: Special review; Geno cameo; Campbell OK but resting

Posted Aug 9, 2014

After the Family Day practice at Paul Brown Stadium Saturday, special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons had a measured response...The rookie O-linemen drew praise for their work in Kansas City...7,000 attended the workout...

Rookie center Russell Bodine was mostly on point in his NFL debut in Kansas City.

Darrin Simmons, the Bengals’ high-voltage special teams coach, didn’t look as enraged as you thought he might after Saturday’s Family Day Practice at Paul Brown Stadium.

Oh, he wasn’t happy about what transpired in the preseason opener in Kansas City. Not with an 80-yard punt return for a TD, a 65-yard kickoff return compounded by an unnecessary roughness call, and a holding penalty wiping out a 52-yard kick return of their own.

This wasn’t supposed to happen to a team that two years ago ranked first in the compilation of the NFL’s top ten major special teams categories, finished in the top 12 last year, and has everyone back this year.

“You really never know going into the first game because we have a variety of combinations we have been working in practice,” Simmons said. “ You are throwing guys out there in games in and out just to put different guys together just to see matchups. It’s hard to gauge a whole lot collectively as a unit but you can see guys do things individually. That’s what you have to learn from. “

What he learned is what he was worried about and it’s what he always worries about this time of year. They missed two tackles on the kickoff before cornerback Adam Jones got the 15-yard flag and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick did everything a gunner is supposed to do on the punt  except tackle.

Simmons says Kirkpatrick is one of the best gunners he’s ever had getting off the line of scrimmage, but he has problems breaking down and tackling. Kirkpatrick thought he got a little push in the back, but Simmons thinks that might have helped him since he got pushed in the direction of the returner.

 “That’s what you always worry about on the first preseason game is these guys, most of our guys, especially the offensive guys have never tackled live,” Simmons said. “They have never tackled anybody live some of these guys. Even the veteran guys haven’t tackled anybody since we played San Diego. So we haven’t tackled. That’s what I worry about most in these early preseason games is tackling and it showed up here. “

But there were things he liked. He thought punter Kevin Huber looked “a little “skittish,’ on the return, but why not? The last time we saw Huber, he was getting his jaw broken on the punt return touchdown in Pittsburgh back on Dec. 15.

“I think his first punt was a good punt. I think he probably got a quick flashback there for a minute. That’s two plays in a row returned for touchdowns. I’m sure he was a little skittish out there. He didn’t punt great after that,” Simmons said. “He was great in pregame warmups. That was encouraging. 

“It was a good punt. He put it right where he wanted to. The snap was a little bit high. The punt was where it was supposed to be. I think he’ll be fine. I don’t worry about him at all.”

Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher looked good on three kick returns and the Bengals weren’t too concerned about the holding call on rookie wide receiver James Wright that negated the 52-yarder. And, yes, Simmons is trying to put heat on incumbent returner Brandon Tate with not only Sanzenbacher.

“I hope so. That’s the purpose of it,” Simmons said. “You try to create competition. I think everybody should feel heat because there’s always somebody right behind you nipping at your tail…. What’s hard is everybody wants to everybody return in the preseason, but the problem is we had two punt returns in the game. One we got kicked over our head. The other one was so short and it’s at the end of the game. So we only had two.”

Adam Jones, the second most dangerous active punt returner in the NFL, didn’t drop back Thursday. But he will soon.

“That’s the wild card,” Simmons said.

GENO CAMEO: The crowd of 7,000 at PBS saw defensive tackle Geno Atkins’ first appearance in 11-on-11 Saturday, but it was for only one snap and it was early in practice when the Bengals were going over how to defend spread formations and empty backfields. Other people may be worried about Atkins not appearing yet in team drills as he rehabs from the Halloween ACL tear, but not defensive line coach Jay Hayes after he saw him work, again, in all the individuals Saturday.

“I think that means he feels like himself,” said Hayes after Atkins jumped into the huddle when he was asked if he wanted a shot. “He’s feeling better, he’s getting stronger. He looked very good in individuals. He’s explosive and we’re taking our time. But he looks good.”

 

PLAY OF THE DAY: It was a little bit like Thursday night’s game for Tate.

After he let a punt go over his head in Kanas City, he caught a nine-yard touchdown pass from Jason Campbell. On Saturday, after he dropped a punt, Tate came back and made a fingertip catch in the corner of the end zone just before he went out of bounds. Tate beat No. 1 pick Darqueze Dennard and quarterback Andy Dalton rifled a lead ball that only Tate could catch.

Dalton didn’t look all that sharp in the shoulder pads workout with 12 of 21 passing, but it’s not surprising. It wasn’t their most crisp of practices since it was their first one after pulling into PBS at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning from Kansas City.

They’re off Sunday before heading to West Carrollton High School for Monday’s 5:30 p.m. practice.

PLAYER OF THE DAY:  We’re going with WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Who else is going to scream at himself after during an innocuous 7-on-7 drill? It’s why Burfict is a Pro Bowler. He wants to be right every time, and this time it looked like he chose the wrong receiver on a shallow crossing route.

 “He’s a competitive dude. He really wants to get everything right. It’s important to him,” said linebackers coach Matt Burke. “He processes the game so fast and so well. He knows right when it happens. You coach him up once and he’s got it.”

Burfict might scream at himself, but he’ll also calmly approach Burke and go through the ins and outs of the play. Burke isn’t sure what set him off Saturday, but he had an idea.

“They were hitting us on some crosses coming back and forth,” Burke said. “Sometimes he has to know if there’s a linebacker working with him or not. Sometimes if the linebacker is working away from him, then he can’t let that guy go because there’s no one there.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY:  Quarterback Jason Campbell on the exploits of quarterback Matt Scott despite his vomiting episode Thursday night:

“I think he made all the YouTube videos. I told him he was Willie Beamen from Any Given Sunday. He was throwing up before the play, then he did that on the field, then he came to the sideline and threw up again right beside us. I was like ‘you’re really Willie Beamen.’ He had a lot of runs. He was the leading rusher in the game.”

SLANTS AND SCREENS: As expected, Campbell didn’t practice with his bruised arm…Defensive tackle Domata Peko and tight end Alex Smith looked to get a veteran’s day off after a game…Tight end Tyler Eifert (unknown) didn’t work…

Guard Mike Pollak (knee) returned for the first time in more than a week and took some snaps at center…Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (calf) was suited in shoulder pads, but didn’t work in team drills…No sign again of right tackle Andre Smith (concussion)…Linebacker JK Schaffer (concussion) is close to coming back…

Even though Pollak worked at center, rookie Russell Bodine got good reviews for his half of work against the Chiefs. He did have what looked to be one too-hot-to-handle shotgun snap from Campbell.

“It was quick one time. But you try to salvage the play,” Campbell said. “Like coach says, anytime something bad like that happens, just salvage the play and try to throw it out of bounds and make sure it’s legal. That’s the main thing on that play. I knew we had a guy running out to the right so I was just trying to catch it and throw it out of bounds and keep from losing yardage in that situation.”…

Bodine didn’t appear to get overwhelmed by 350-pound nose man Dontari Poe, but offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is impressed he didn’t get overwhelmed, period.

 “I thought he did a great job. I thought it was a great compliment by Coach (Paul) Alexander about him – he said when came off even when things weren’t perfect he knew exactly what the issues were,” Jackson said. “He could really tell him the things he saw and they were right on what Coach Alexander was seeing. That’s a good sign. That’s a positive.”

 And the rookie next to him, Trey Hopkins, the undrafted left guard out of Texas, just keeps proving that he belongs on an NFL roster.

“You're talking about a guy who is a left guard who was an undrafted free agent for us and he plays his tail off against a very good defensive football team,” Jackson said. “That's exciting for us; that we have two guys who are young guys who have the ability to keep getting better. So when we look at that, that's something to be proud of.” …

James Urban, the Bengals wide receivers coach, also had something to be proud of. With mentor Andy Reid on the other sidelines as the Chiefs head coach, four Bengals receivers each scored a TD. And the one by LSU rookie James Wright was his first TD since high school...

The Bengals had a new quarterback in Tyler Wilson Saturday, but they dodged a bullet with Campbell.

It appears Campbell suffered only a deep bruise on his throwing arm Thursday night and while he’s not expected to do much this week and may not even play next Saturday against the Jets (Aug. 16-7 p.m.) at PBS, head coach Marvin Lewis said Campbell should be OK next week.

The Bengals had the 6-2, 215-pound Wilson on their radar in the 2013 draft when he was coming out of Arkansas, but the Raiders beat them to the punch in the fourth round. He got cut after training camp after throwing for 93 yards on 11-for-18 passing in the preason and was put on the practice squad. The Titans claimed him in December, but Tennessee cut him on Wednesday after drafting Zach Mettenberger and signing Charlie Whitehurst earlier in the spring.

It seemed like before Saturday’s practice that Campbell was more bruised by his two pick sixes in Kansas City, a 36-yarder by cornerback Sean Smith and a 51-yarder by safety Malcolm Bronson. It’s the first time he ever threw two in a game.

“It takes away from the good things we did,” Campbell said.

He said he thought the first one was pass interference when Smith outmuscled wide receiver Cobi Hamilton for the ball. “I’d still drop back and throw the same ball,” he said. And he said he wasn’t late throwing to the flat to wide receiver Brandon Tate, but that Bronson jumped the route…

 Matt Scott could only smile when asked about his celebrity on YouTube that documented every spew of his multiple vomiting before and after he threw a touchdown pass and ran in a two-point commercial to pull the Bengals within 41-39 of the Chiefs Thursday night.

Cornerback Terence Newman stood with the media around his locker Saturday before practice and said, “I see you’ve met Willie Beamen,” referring to the infamous vomit scene in the film “Any Given Sunday.” In fact, after he vomited on the field, Scott came back and vomited on the sidelines, where Campbell said, “You really are Willie Beamen.”

This isn’t the first time. Scott said he did the same thing at Arizona when he played USC.  After he vomited, he threw a touchdown pass on a slant. He did the exact same thing here, and got a touchdown with wide receiver Conner Vernon.

It couldn’t save Vernon, cut on Friday.

Scott’s effort greatly impressed Lewis and gave the coaches an example to show the rest of the team.

“I was happy for him…A little high step at the end,” Campbell said of the two-point conversion. “Like coach was saying, sometimes we forget that it’s still the same game we played as a kid. Sometimes we put too much stress on ourselves to make every play the right way. Sometimes you just have to let the seventh grade come out of you sometimes. Enjoy the game. It really makes sense.” ..   

Scott chalked it up to last week’s sinus infection, plus his asthma: "It made it tough (to breathe)."

Hue Jackson couldn't get enough of Scott's intangibles.

"I was surprised at the poise. Because out here, I guess you guys see that I demand a lot from the quarterback, and normally I'm on him. And he's looking at me kind of bewildered sometimes," Jackson said. "But that wasn't the case the other night. He said, 'Come on, Coach. Bring it on. Let's go.' To me, the game is really where it's at, and he really rose up in the game. That says a lot."

And, no, Jackson had never seen quite a display like that.

"I've seen guys throw up, but not like that," Jackson said. "Oh my gosh, multiple times. It was unbelievable."

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