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Bengals ease into spring stretch

Reggie Kelly

With Monday's news that the NFL cancelled the Ravens' final week of their offseason program because of rules violations, don't look for the Bengals to be missing the next two weeks.

The Bengals take the field Tuesday and Thursday this week before ending their spring workouts June 15-17 with their mandatory minicamp. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the club's NFL Players Association rep, says not going on the field on Wednesdays in some of the weeks has been helpful easing up the grind.

"Even this time of year, it's tough going out there three days in a row," Whitworth says. "The day off the field is a great idea because it helps guys get refocused on what's going on in the film room and with the playbook and gives them time to take a longer look at things."

According to a joint statement from the Ravens and the league, the violations stem from "the intensity and tempo of drills conducted on the club's organized team activity days and the length of time spent by players at the club's facility on such days."

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is known as one of the tougher practice coaches in the league, but Whitworth says that in the past he's gone to Whitworth to get his take on how things are going. Lewis went with the 3-2-3-2 days last year on the field to rave reviews from his team.

"Marvin does a good job of keeping an open dialogue with us," Whitworth said. "You never know with (the Baltimore situation) what it might have been. Is it just one player that complained or bunch of guys? I don't think it's an issue here. I don't think it would be a team-wide thing. It might be one position where they're trying to get some work done and you just remind the coach at some point. It's give and take. The coaches only have so much time to get things done and they're trying to get work done, so you talk about it and work through it."

Whitworth admits that even though the players aren't in pads, the OTAs can be as stressful and as dangerous as when the season gets going.

"You're trying to play fast," he says, "but at the same time you want to stay off guys, too."

With this spring starting to wrap up, there comes the realization that no matter what happens next year the offseason workouts are no doubt going to look differently than they have in the previous decade.

If there is no collective bargaining agreement by next spring, there won't be workouts. And if there is a new CBA, there's a strong possibility there are going to be more than 16 games and Whitworth thinks the pace of the current offseason schedule might be too much for one or two extra games.

"I would think a lot of things are going to be different if we have 18 games," Whitworth said. "For one thing, roster size is going to probably be a lot different. If you lose a major player for something like 14 games in a season, that would be horrific. You would think there might have to be more spots."

JONES STAYING UPBEAT: Cornerback Adam Jones missed a couple of days last week with some tight muscles, but he fought through it with positive thoughts.

"I've been busting my butt since January and haven't given myself a break. I think it kind of caught up to my body," he said in last week's media session. "I think my body should be healthy enough to hold up. I've been out a year and I've only had this tweak. You kind of expect those things. Just don't let them get you down. Keep working at it. I'm busting my butt on the side."

Jones admits that his 39-game NFL career has been played pretty much on instinct and now he's trying to bring technique into it more than ever.

"Technique is the start of everything," he said. "If you've got good technique and good instincts, it's going to make you a much better player than just having instincts."

He can almost hear defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer in his ear.

"I've played with a lot of good defensive coordinators, especially the one I had in Tennessee: Coach (Jim) Schwartz," Jones said. "But I've never seen a guy as smart as Zim. He gets all over you and all that, but when you get out there and you just think about it, he makes it so much easier. Then you go out there and play without thinking. It's going to work out."

MORE TECHNIQUE: Tight end Reggie Kelly, one of the more technically-sound Bengals, was a little uncertain about how good his would be when he returned to the field for the first time since rupturing his Achilles last Aug. 2.

Not only is there no pain, the 33-year-old body seems to remember what to do.

"I feel excellent. To be honest with you, my technique is a lot better than I thought it would be right now," Kelly said last week after one of his first on-field sessions. "Obviously I have a lot of work to do to get back where I was. But it definitely feels great. I'm able to push off with it with no problems."

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