On the day wide receiver A.J. Green returned to the field for the first time in more than two weeks, some other starters sat out Wednesday's practice for a variety of reasons.
Defensive tackle Geno Atkins had personal reasons. Left end Carlos Dunlap missed his second straight practice with what was called a minor injury and was on the rehab field. There was no sign of running back Joe Mixon, who had missed the previous practice with what head coach Zac Taylor called "a minor injury."
And backup quarterback Ryan Finley was out with what was called "an undetermined illness."
So offensive line coach Jim Turner took advantage of one of his absences to get some stuff on tape. The personal day for left guard Michael Jordan ignited a big man carousel with several linemen playing several different positions.
While Jordan spent time with his day-old baby, Turner delivered a raft of combinations to peruse on film. He started the day off by moving veteran right guard Xavier Su'a-Filo to Jordan's spot while backup right tackle Fred Johnson went to right guard and Turner was off.
The day's last snap for the No. 1 line in front of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow had two starters, left tackle Jonah Williams and center Trey Hopkins, working with Billy Price at left guard, rookie left tackle Hakeem at right guard and Johnson at right tackle.
"This," said Turner, as dry as the Desert of Maine in his native New England, "is about the time the radio calls me a jerk."
But Turner is simply doing what he has to do to survive as an NFL offensive line coach. The backups have to play, at the very least, two spots. On Wednesday, Price played all three interior positions. The sixth-rounder, Adeniji, has been playing left tackle with the twos, but on Wednesday he played both guards.
"And in between periods I think he was playing the violin," Turner said.
Su'a-Filo, who played tackle all those years ago at UCLA, may have played four spots, Turner thought, but definitely three, both guards and right tackle. Even one of the newest Bengals, Washington State rookie center Frederick Mauigoa, got in the act. Naturally, Turner put him at right guard.
"He did a nice job for just getting here," Turner said. "We call him 'F.' We went through having the two Freds in the morning, so Fred (Johnson) is now 'Big Fred,' and Frederick is 'F.'"
JOE CHECK: It didn't look like there were very many false starts (maybe just one) and Burrow seemed to have pretty good time in the pocket. But the receivers were dragging on a 90-degree day and the cornerbacks made some nice plays.
The day ended when Burrow tried to keep a drive going, but cornerback William Jackson III knocked the ball away from wide receiver John Ross III at the last instant as they were going out of bounds to cap Ross' first team outing of the year.
It was in about the same vicinity about half an hour before when Ross and a couple DBs went up for a ball on the sidelines. Ross could have had it, but he didn't hold on and when he came down he looked to land roughly on his wrist. Which hushed the humidity a little bit since every teammate is aware of Ross' tortured injury history.
He was down for a bit, got up gingerly and sat out until the next drill when he made a couple of nice catches.
Burrow wasn't razor sharp, but he also had some balls that were dropped and he had some nice completions when he moved off his spot in the pocket.
He had a very good two-minute drill in seven-on-seven. In fact, the only incompletion was the ball that Ross got hurt.
Burrow went 75 yards and after he opened two-for-two with side-line balls to tight end C.J Uzomah and wide receiver Mike Thomas, Ross had the drop. Then after rookie wide receiver Tee Higgins caught one on rookie linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither over the middle, wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught three straight over the middle and following the last one Burrow called, "Clock," to stop it at nine seconds inside the 20.
It took him just five seconds to hit an out to Thomas and then from the seven-yard line Burrow got one-on-one matchups across the field and picked Uzomah inside getting outside leverage on linebacker Austin Calitro for the touchdown to finish the drive 7-for-8.
The first offense was up and down in 11-on-11, but Burrow did mange three straight third-down conversions, one to Ross and two to Boyd after Burrow got hurried out of the pocket. He still threw a ball Uzomah had a chance on over the middle. He dove and had it, but lost it before he hit the ground.
Jake Dolegala took Finley's snaps and threw some nice balls but didn't get a lot of help from the backup receivers. He did throw a pick right to safety Jessie Bates III all by himself in the middle of the field.
DOWN ON THE CORNER: Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo made good on his pledge to try a bunch of guys in the slot with cornerback Mackensie Alexander home in Florida dealing with personal issues. The most popular combo for the ones seemed to be Jackson and veteran LeShaun Sims on the outside and Darius Phillips in the slot. The twos looked to have veteran Torry McTyer and CFL product Winston Rose in there most of the time. Despite Phillips' penchant for getting his hands on the ball, the guy that has seemed to get the most time on Trae Waynes' corner is Sims, the free-agent pickup from Tennessee, a fifth-year guy that has played a lot of ball on a good defense.
"He's been out there, but DP has been on the outside, too," Anarumo said. "We're monitoring that, those guys are kind of battling it out. LeShaun is big, he is long and he can run. All he does is go out there every day and work hard and doesn't say a word. He's getting a feel for things and he has some things he still has to learn. He's a pleasure to be around."
Anarumo had a good story from Wednesday's walk-through about Rose, the guy that led Canada with nine interceptions last season and has 14 career CFL picks.
"He was on the scout team offense simulating something for the defense and I signaled for a guy to go in motion, but it wasn't him," Anarumo said. "So it was two guys in motion at one time. So I said 'Hey Winston, this isn't Canada. They can only move one guy (in the NFL).' He started laughing. He's done well. He's gotten his hands on some footballs. That's what he did up there. It's a transition. It's a different game. He's slowly but surely getting it and we're happy with his progress so far."
GREEN DAY: We may not see Green, coming off resting a hamstring issue for two weeks, all that soon in team drills. They're going to ease him in and since he's not expected to play in Sunday's scrimmage, what's the point?
Besides, he looked really good running and cutting on Wednesday and made a nice, stretching one-handed grab with his right hand as he steadied himself with his left hand. Yes, he hasn't finished a team practice in pads under Zac Taylor yet. But he looks ready for the Chargers on Sept. 13.