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Backs and backers

Updated: 4:25 p.m.

Running back Chris Perry was on the field for the first time in May since his rookie year and he was a sight for quarterback Carson Palmer's sore eyes.

Even though Perry's dislocated ankle has kept him out of a game since November of 2006, Palmer said Perry looked like he did when he showed up at training camp for the first time with a rookie's quick feet in 2004 and reminds him of Pro Bowlers LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson catching the ball out of the backfield.

"It's just good to be back on the field with those guys. That's what I missed the most," said Perry after he made a couple of one-handed catches noted by offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski.



No great surprise that Pro Bowl wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh weren't in attendance, or tackles Willie Anderson and Levi Jones. Linebacker Odell Thurman did not make it back in time Tuesday after attending his grandmother's funeral Monday in Georgia.

"I'm not frustrated at all. I'm happy and excited to get back on the field myself whether they're here or not," said Palmer of the absence of his two favorite targets. "We're definitely missing valuable time. We'll get to work whenever they get here."

Johnson has demanded a trade and Houshmandzadeh didn't come to all of last year's voluntaries before he led the NFL in catches. Head coach Marvin Lewis designated Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as a passing camp and the offensive linemen weren't dressed. Jones has requested a trade and Anderson spends some of the spring in Atlanta with his son.

"This is all voluntary," Lewis said. "We're excited about the guys that are here."

The fallout of drafting Keith Rivers No. 1 surfaced Tuesday with Dhani Jones moving to middle linebacker to make room for Rivers at WILL and Ahmad Brooks moving from the middle to SAM. After practice Brooks said the Bengals backed him off work because he still has soreness from the surgery to repair the season-ending torn groin he suffered in the second game of the season. So last year's SAM starter, Rashad Jeanty, got most of the work there Tuesday.

A third-year player with just 13 NFL games, Brooks said he has never played outside the box and adjusting to the SAM backer spot is "going to be tough, but I can do it."

Running Rudi Johnson showed off his offseason muscles and says he's about 10-15 pounds heavier than his 212 from last year's injury-plagued season. He shrugged at the Bengals' invitation for former NFL MVP Shaun Alexander to visit last week and about the possibility of competing with him.

"I'm in right now," he said.

While Palmer said, "Any time you add an NFL MVP to your team it has to be a good thing," he also said. "I'm extremely happy with the backfield we've got."

The lack of linemen is a departure from past camps and allowed Lewis to break the team into mostly drills for the skill positions for much of the practice.

Former receiver Bennie Brazell showed up for lunch, but there are no indications the club is going to sign him. He was cut after they took him in the seventh round in 2006 and couldn't stay healthy.

Cornerback Deltha O'Neal also wasn't in camp, but he didn't attend most of the voluntaries last year, either, because of a contract tiff. He didn't get a new one but he showed for the June mandatory minicamp and he's expected to do the same this year.



If Dhani Jones is the Opening Day middle backer, he'll be the ninth different starter in the middle under Lewis. He started the final eight games of the season at WILL and had a start at SAM.

"'I've usually gone to the middle from the outside when I was needed," said Jones of his careers with the Giants and Eagles.

Jones, fresh off a Travel Channel date in Ireland, played for a junior hurling team that got beat on Saturday. That came a couple of months after he played a rugby match in England.

"Just like in rugby, this was the third level down. Not the seniors or the country clubs, " Jones said. "It's a cross between field hockey, lacrosse, handball, baseball, ultimate frisbee, a little bit of everything. It helps with hand-eye coordination, endurance, man-on-man responsibilities."

Jones got his work in. He played 20 minutes in the first half and 15 minutes in the second half of a game consisting of 30-minute halves. He finished with an assist "as we would call it. The guy scored after I passed it to him," he said.

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