Newest Bengal Michael Bennett snags a pass.
The Bengals closed their public practices Thursday with their biggest scare of training camp in the 18 days since right end Michael Johnson sprained his MCL.
Tight end Tyler Eifert, who along with defensive tackle Geno Atkins, was the best player on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields this summer, lay crumpled on the field after launching himself in the air to grab a high pass and coming down on his back.
After such a dominant summer and last year's season-ending dislocated elbow in the first quarter of the year, a hush fell over the grounds holding an estimated 950 people until Eifert stood up after about a minute. It appeared Eifert had the wind knocked out of him as rookie safety Erick Dargan went up and came down with him.
"I never did walk over," said head coach Marvin Lewis, looking a lot calmer than his offensive staff. "I just figured he had the wind knocked out of him." SNAP CALL:Bengals center Russell Bodine has been here before. In fact, last year during his first training camp on the way to a solid rookie season.
On Thursday there was another wayward Bodine snap, a problem that has surfaced with alarming frequency. The same thing happened last preseason, but it didn't become an issue during the season.
On Monday, a bad snap sparked an Andy Dalton outburst. On Thursday, they replaced Bodine with T.J. Johnson for three plays and he and Dalton had an exchange problem, too. Bodine came back and he says the consistent snapping will too.
"Last year I had to tell you that it wouldn't be a problem and I'll tell you the same thing again," Bodine said after practice. "We're trying to work on different techniques. Obviously it's not acceptable even though we're working on different techniques. It messes up the whole play. "
Bodine says it comes down to handling the ball differently to match the pass protection.
"We're trying different stuff with my hands to try and firm up middle protection and we don't have it down yet," Bodine said. "I don't know when you're supposed to work on this stuff other than practice. It is practice.
"You don't want to be the guy to let the team down," Bodine said. "But I don't know when you're supposed to work on it."
WEDNESDAY, THURSDAY, FRIDAY…It was Thursday, the last day of public practices. But in Bengaldom, it was really a regular-season Wednesday, the busiest day of the work week. Lewis wanted to give his players a taste of the regular-season grind before they get back into it, but with a Monday night game on tap (8-Cincinnati's Channel 5 and ESPN) they had to make Thursday a Wednesday. On Friday, like they do in the regular season, they'll practice in the morning. They'll probably have two walk-throughs before leaving Sunday for Tampa.
Lewis always likes to reminds you that even though the practices are now closed, it is still training camp for a week or so. But now there are no nightly meetings.
"It's great for the fans," Lewis said. "We did some good things Friday night (against the Giants) and we've had a long week of good work. Now we get an opportunity to put our best forward. For how many snaps, 10, five, 15, 30, you play your best football."
His players are wondering how he'll dole out the playing time against the Bucs and then against the Bears at PBS on Aug. 29. Usually the third preseason game is reserved for the most snaps for the first team so they play none in the preseason finale in Indianapolis Sept. 3. But with just five days between the Bucs and Bears, Lewis probably doesn't want to overdo it in the third game.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: WR A.J. Green
The team's best player is practicing like it. Whenever he had a drop, or a ball that missed timing up with Dalton, he came back with a vengeance. Enough that he dominated 11-on-11 with seven catches, several of the deep variety.
Take the last three plays of the day, working against the second-team defense. Dalton threw a great go ball down the left sideline and before Green could put it away, cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris knocked it out of his hands.
Cincinnati Bengals host Training Camp practice at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields 08/20/2015
Then on the next snap Green ran down the middle about 15 yards and made such a hard pivot that the secondary didn't have time to converge on him and he was all alone.
Then he got his revenge on Lewis-Harris sweeping past him down the inside and cutting it toward the sideline, where Dalton hung it up and deep leading him. Green tracked the ball directly over his head and hauled it in inches before stepping out of bounds.
Dalton fittingly ended camp by jogging down the field to congratulate Green while Green was being escorted by the rest of The Big Three, wide receivers Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
Then there was the play early in practice where Green wrenched a ball free from tight coverage and then seemingly all in one motion leaped a water cooler a few yards off on the sidelines. His strides gobble grass like a John Deere.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Dalton and Jones also good days. In fact, they had a good week starting Monday. Dalton's last pick in 11-on-11 seems like years ago and Jones looks a lot better than he did last week. On this play, Jones skewered rookie cornerback Josh Shaw down the left sideline on a go ball, but Dalton got heat from a collapsing pocket. At the last instant before he went down, a rarity in practice, Dalton got the ball off and hit Jones in stride. Too bad he never saw it.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Chuck Smith, the pass rush consultant from Atlanta who had 58.5 sacks in nine seasons for the Falcons and Panthers in the '90s, is coaching with the club the next few weeks as part of the Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship Coaching Program. Smith on former Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson:
"I think he should be on the Hall-of-Fame ballot and let them decide. But he was as good as Willie Roaf and the other Hall-of-Fame (tackles) I played against."
SLANTS AND SCREENS: On the rookie watch, wide receiver Mario Alford had a few drops the last couple of days, but he came back big the last half of Thursday's practice, particularly in the nooks and crannies of 7-on-7. Plus, tight end C.J. Uzomah had a nice 15-yard grab over the middle in 11-on-11 fighting through a forest of arms . . .
Rookie running back Terrell Watson appeared to injure his ankle early in practice and spent the rest of the workout on the sidelines . . .
Rookie left tackle Jake Fisher didn't work and hasn't for a week, making him doubtful for the Bucs. Defensive tackle Pat Sims (thigh) didn't work after getting hurt Wednesday and also doesn't look good for the Bucs. But apparently neither injury is major . . .
Backup guard Trey Hopkins hasn't practiced for more than a week as he continues his comeback from the broken leg he suffered last year in his rookie preseason . . .
Wide receivers Onterio McCalebb and Tevin Reese and cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Brandon Ghee are all fighting what look to be hamstring injuries, none of them have practiced this week, and they don't look like they'll play in Tampa, either . . .
New Bengals wide receiver Michael Bennett showed up in Cincinnati about eight months late.
Before he tore his ACL on Dec. 30, he planned to train for the NFL Draft at Clif Marshall's Ignition Sports in Blue Ash, Ohio. But Bennett's second ACL reconstruction surgery scrapped those plans and Marshall didn't see him until before Thursday's practice, the day after Bennett signed.
They were looking for each other. Bennett, a Georgia native, sought a guy with more one-on-one attention than most, and Marshall is always seeking committed players looking to buy in.
"I was told by his teammates he is a very high character, hard-working leader," Marshall said.
That would certainly be reflected in his comebacks. He overcame his first ACL to become Georgia's leading receiver and overcame this one to get into an NFL camp, albeit a couple of weeks late.
He's also got the backing of his college head coach. About two weeks ago Bennett worked out on a video that was sent to every NFL team.
"Coach (Mark) Richt did it all for me," Bennett said . . .
That final 53-man roster may have a taste of France. With Fisher and Hopkins sidelined, France has been getting a ton of snaps.
After left tackle Andrew Whitworth played the first series against the Giants, France took the next 69 snaps, a team-high. Since Fisher has yet to practice this week, France could be looking at the same type of load in Tampa. And he's thankful after spending all last season on the practice squad as an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State.
Since he played mostly guard last season, he's got that versatility needed in the back line. But he's been watching every one of Whitworth's snaps.
"He's got such great technique, it doesn't look like he's trying," France said.