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Atkins back working with an eye to Sunday


Geno Atkins is looking to come off the sidelines.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis says two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins is a go for the regular-season opener in Baltimore Sept. 7.

And he says he could potentially play in Sunday's third preseason game in Arizona (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) for his season debut.

Lewis did say Wednesday he thinks backup quarterback Jason Campbell can throw enough with his bruised throwing arm to play. Also back on the field Wednesday was wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher and most of the players who left Saturday night's Jets game with bruises.

After watching Atkins work in team drills Wednesday, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther thought Atkins could go for a couple series with the first unit. If he does it will be his first time on the field sine he tore his ACL Hallloween Night in Miami.

"It will be good to have all 11 out there,' said Guenther, who could have all his starters for the first time as coordinator. "He did a fair amount. He looked good. Everything is coming along as planned."

Guenther thinks a few snaps in live situations will help boost Atkins' confidence and just flat out make him feel better because "I'm sure he's anxious to get back in there playing with the guys."

But the Bengals don't want to make any pronouncements just yet on their prized inside pass rusher.

"We're going to do whatever we need to do,' Lewis said. "There's no hard and fast. Sometimes coaches do that and it ends up you're looking for a way out, so you say little."

Lewis did say that Atkins had progressed well enough that the week before training camp opened last month director of rehab Nick Cosgray thought Atkins looked excellent.

"We've used this time to get him more confident in the football aspect of it. Geno Atkins can push Nick Cosgray around the field all day long and it's not going to be the same," Lewis said. "The football aspect he had to get used to and we've been able to do that and go slow with it.

"It's important for Geno to continue at Geno's progression and he's done a good job of that. Guys heal at their own pace and I think the mental process is always at their own pace."

No one doubts what a healthy Atkins means.

"He's a huge difference. He's one of the best in the game," Guenther said."When he's in there he makes us a lot better."

Right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) says he expects to get cleared to play Sunday and he was on the field Wednesday working with the rest in shoulder pads and shorts.

WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict wasn't on the field but it's believed he has nothing seriously wrong with him (stomach bug) and should still be on for Sunday's return to his college glory days at Arizona State.

Also not working were rookie cornerbacks Darqueze  Dennard (hip) and Lavelle Westbrooks (unknown) along with quarterback Tyler Wilson (head) and defensive tackle David King (unknown), as well as wide receiver Marvin Jones (foot) and running back Rex Burkhead (knee). Lewis would only say that Burkhead has a sore knee and will get his brace off in a few days. That's pretty consistent with an MCL sprain, but that can be anywhere from two weeks to eight weeks.

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