Updated: 6:15 p.m.
After the fourth practice into his rehab Saturday afternoon, former Panthers quarterback Tony Pike agreed with what the Bengals coaches are saying about needing more time for his elbow. But he's relieved he's this far along after the second surgery. It's the most he's thrown since the last training camp in Carolina.
Pike, the Reading, Ohio, native who starred in nearby Clifton at the University of Cincinnati, was a sixth-round pick of the Panthers in 2010 after surviving some arm injuries. After throwing just 12 passes as a rookie, Pike underwent elbow surgery before the last training camp. He got cut a month later, struggled with the elbow some more and needed a second surgery to relieve a nerve problem that was more extensive than the first procedure. That was only two months ago.
He said doctors cut the muscle in his forearm before tucking the nerve underneath the muscle. Then they sewed the muscle together to protect that nerve.
"I'm light years ahead of where I wanted to be," Pike said Saturday. "I think to show the progress I've made since the surgery, hopefully something else happens."
Pike is fighting through the occasional numbness that plays havoc with his spiral. He admitted late in Friday's second practice the nerve tightened up. But he feels great "just to be around the guys again," and understands the rather extensive "risk-reward" second surgery is only nine weeks removed this Monday.
"The more I throw, the better it's starting to feel ... these coaches have been great," Pike said. "It gets to a point where I go through that first workout and I'm sore for a couple of days. It's a sensitive nerve. The biggest thing is to work through it. Structurally everything is healthy ... now it's repetition."
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden believes Pike doesn't have enough confidence yet in his elbow to zip the ball and let it loose. He says it looks like he needs more time to get his confidence and full strength back.
Pike has been short on his long passes and his out routes have lacked speed. Gruden thinks he can get it back, it's just a matter of time.
"He's got to get a little more time to get more strength back in his arm. He has made some great throws, but you can see from a consistent standpoint it's not there," Gruden said. "He'll throw one great one and then he just won't let loose like he should. He's just got to keep working through it. The better he feels, the stronger he feels, the more confident he'll be letting loose.
"Right now you can tell he's not quite popping his arm through there consistently. I think he can do it, but he just has to know he can do it in his mind. It's not so much arm strength, it's confidence. From an outsider looking in, it looks like he needs a little bit more time."
Pike gets it. He's just happy to be throwing.
"With a nerve you never know how it's going to respond; it's pretty special," Pike said of getting back on the field. "I've been able to throw. I knew I could do those throws, but the next part is looking at a pass rush, dropping five steps and transferring everything. You've got to get back to that game atmosphere and speed of the game. I first looked at the playbook (Thursday) night and it's (learning) on the run. It's everything coming together."
Now it looks like he needs a little more time to put it all together.
» Meanwhile free-agent rookie quarterback
"He throws the deep ball extremely well. He reads his progressions. He's made some oustanding throws and he can move in the pocket. He's very accurate," Gruden said.
» Count Gruden on the fast-rolling
At the moment he's the favorite to win the No. 2 job simply because he's been here longer than most and Gruden had an interesting take on the guy Saturday.
"He's a better player when there's a defense out there," Gruden said. "When he's out there just one-on-one or routes vs. air, he's probably the worst guy. He's probably not the fastest, he's probably not the biggest, the fastest. But when he gets out there in a team setting, he runs all the routes the right way and makes good strong catches. He's got a natural feel for the game."
Gruden says third-rounder
» Before Saturday's two practices the Bengals added University of Cincinnati center Randy Martinez to the tryout list.
» Pike probably won't get offered a contract, but there will be tryout guys that will when camp ends Sunday at noon. One guy to keep an eye on is last-minute add, Kentucky cornerback Taiedo Smith. Smith, who played a little nickel safety for the Wildcats, has been all over the place with at least three picks and getting a hand on a ton of passes.
» First-year pass-rushing defensive end
» One surprise Saturday morning was the usually sure-handed
But in the morning he struggled and there were reasons. A new skyline. A new sun. A lefty. But he didn't use them.
"It is a lot different. I had the greatest punter in Bryan Anger and I never had a problem," Jones said of his Cal teammate that was the top punter in the draft. "Sometimes you have a bad day. I'm very confident in my abilities and you can put your trust in me. In games, I never muffed one. Sometimes you have rough days."
Jones admitted there were some balls he automatically thought would swerve right coming down, but with the lefty they were going the other way.
"At the end of the day, there are no excuses," he said. "You have to look the ball right off his foot ... I'll get used to it. It's not a problem, but I definitely want to redeem myself."
Presto. The afternoon session went much better for him.