Camp report: Backers show versatility

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To make room for middle linebacker Rey Maualuga on Monday, Vincent Rey (57) switched to WILL.

On Monday middle linebacker Rey Maualuga emerged from his mysterious 10-day exile to practice for the first time this training camp and says he can play in Friday night's pre-season opener (7:30-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Giants at Paul Brown Stadium.

But that's only if head coach Marvin Lewis says so and since he didn't say he could practice until now, let's hold off.

"It's a precaution thing," Maualuga said after practice on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields. "I just show up, he says, 'I don't think you're ready to go,' I say, 'yes sir,' and start rehabbing and getting my leg stronger."

It sounds like the Bengals wanted to make sure Maualuga had everything lined up, from conditioning to his hamstring that nagged him a bit back in the spring. Whatever it was, they got him back in there with the first team pretty quickly.

"They eased me in there. I felt fine," Maualuga said. "I feel like I've been practicing the whole time."

Maualuga's return didn't stop defensive coordinator Paul Guenther from rotating his guys through. After last season's devastating injuries at linebacker, Guenther pledged to play everybody on the roster against the ones so they would be prepared for any catastrophe and so he has.

He moved Vincent Rey from the middle to WILL and moved A.J. Hawk from WILL to SAM in the first defense to make room for Maualuga. And when they went to the nickel package, promoted rush end/linebacker Chris Carter to the first team. Plus, they toyed with a three-man front in  nickel for a different look while dropping Carter…

"As you know we had a bunch of guys get hurt last year," Maualuga said. "Coach keeps emphasizing every guy has to be ready no matter where you are on the depth chart."

Guenther says that may change once Maualuga settles in and Vontaze Burfict gets back to WILL.

"That's how we teach it," Guenther said. "You can't just learn one of those spots. Once we get our guys back, we can hunker down concentrating on one of the spots."

PLAYER OF THE DAY: OL Eric Winston

A little déjà vu Monday for the Bengals' nine-year backup right tackle who has played 128 NFL games, 127 of them at tackle. The one game he played guard came in Kansas City three years ago against the Bengals and their marauding defensive tackle on the way to his first Pro Bowl, Geno Atkins.

"That was fun. He was out of control then," said Winston, who found himself up against Atkins again in Monday's practice. "The guy showed up Friday and said, 'I can't play,' and I had never played guard before."

Winston held his own Monday when he became the first man off the bench in the wake of left guard Clint Boling tweaking his knee in 9-on-7 and leaving practice before the team drills started. Boling looks like and he'll be fine and  the Bengals look like they'll be OK if Winston has to go in there or right guard. They're opting for his experience while allowing rookie backup left tackle Jake Fisher to get his feet under him.

"I don't know if I blocked him," Winston said of Atkins. "But I got in the way."

Winston did what he had to do as the first-team offensive line delivered a strong day in pass protection. It also banged in for two touchdowns on the ground from the 2 against the first defense when running back Jeremy Hill plowed in behind an interior line wearing shoulder pads and shorts.

"You don't want to be a one-trick pony unless you're a starter," Winston said. "Especially with the talent we have at tackle and, really, across the board on the offensive line. You want to show you can play multiple spots."

Winston isn't too worried about picking up the nuances of the position.

"I haven't (played) it, but obviously I've paid attention," he said. "Understanding the whole line and how it works. Picking up little things here and there. Picking up blitzes: 'That might not be our guy, but I have to take him in this situation.' I know it wasn't faultless, but for sure I did some things in there. I can't wait to see the film."

PLAY OF THE DAY: Safety Derron Smith, the sixth-rounder out of Fresno State, made the interception of training camp Monday when he pilfered backup AJ McCarron with a leaping one-handed grab that looked more like an NBA rebound.

Smith, in a scrum with veteran Shiloh Keo for that fourth safety spot, has impressed since he arrived with his ability to be in the right spot at the right time. Keo's special teams experience gives him the edge, but Smith keeps showing up.

Smith was in the right spot on McCarron's bootleg because he alertly saw a spot was taken by rookie cornerback Troy Hill.

"I was supposed to be in the flat. On my way out there I saw my corner out there and there's no need for two of us to be out there," Smith said. "I just doubled back. I know on a boot there's always going to be a crosser in the middle. I read the eyes and just tried to make a play. Being in the right spot trying to make a play on the ball, that's what I've done my whole life. No reason it should change now."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: LT Andrew Whitworth after watching Houston and Washington brawl in a joint practice over the weekend:

"Nobody ever accomplished anything in a fight in full-padded gear in a practice. If they want to fight, let them meet in the offseason in the Octagon."

 BRAWL GAME: Two of the Bengals veterans, Winston and 10-year left tackle Andrew Whitworth, saw the brawl break out between the Texans and Washington over the weekend and with the Giants coming to the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields Tuesday and Wednesday for 3 p.m. practices it is something to ponder.

Winston, president of the NFL Players Association, says he's heard about some of the texts going around the league.

"It's definitely a concern," Winston said. "(Players) are wondering what's going on and how does it fall under player safety. It's a legitimate point. Is it an additional preseason game. Or is it a practice?

Cincinnati Bengals host Training Camp practice at Paul Brown Stadium practice fields 08/10/2015

"In my mind at least, you shouldn't be trying to have  a practice game. You should be having a practice. There's a big difference. Drills. One-on-ones. 9-on-7. Those are practice type drills you really just try to do against a different team to get a different look, different feel  against the guys and just try to keep it live."  

Both Winston and Whitworth expect the Bengals and Giants, led by respected head coaches Marvin Lewis and Tom Coughlin, to keep it professional. But both admit it is dangerous when two teams get together.

"When you and a defensive lineman strap up against each other, you don't have great intentions for each other," Whitworth said. "But you want to have respect. We're not trying to hurt each other. It's tough when you get young guys and guys fighting for spots to be conscious of, 'Don't knock this guy down or don't do this when they're just trying to win their jobs."

Like Whitworth says, "Nobody ever accomplished anything in a fight in full-padded gear. If they want to fight, let them meet in the offseason in the Octagon."

Winston says it is something the NFLPA has kept an eye on and the fine line makes it tough.

"Is this an additional pre-season game? Is that what we're trying to do?" Winston asked. "What kind of work are you trying to get in? And what's that speak of the coaches allowing it to happen?"

When Winston played in Houston the Texans had a couple of joint practices with the Saints.

"At times it's good, at times it's not so good," he said. "There's such a fine line. You want to prove your worth. You don't want to get pushed around. You're trying to make your spot on the team. But at the same time you don't want to look bad at any point."

Whitworth knows the intensity is, well, intense. But he's hoping the more intense players dial it down a bit to protect everybody.

"Everyone here is trying so hard, they're trying to do different things and some will be sensitive and take things the wrong way," Whitworth said. "We're just looking to get good work in and move on."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: McCarron apparently injured his rib cage early in Monday's practice, before 11-on-11, and he'll need a couple of days rest…

Josh Johnson had his best day of the camp taking the remainder of McCarron's throws, including a powerful red zone dart to rookie wide receiver Mario Alford in the back of the end zone…

Wide receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring) Monday returned to team drills and 7-on-7 after nearly a week sidelined...He missed a slant late in the workout when his feet gave way and is trying to get his timing back...

The Bengals offensive line hammered in two Jeremy Hill touchdown runs from the 2. In a bid to get the third touchdown, Dalton had tight end Tyler Eifert isolated in the right corner on linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, but Lamur was able to get a hand on it….

Dalton didn't have a great day passing the ball. He underthrew A.J. Green on a go ball and allowed cornerback Adam Jones to make a play on it. Then on the next ball he overthrew tight end Tyler Eifert…

But he also fired a series of slants to Green that were money...

Alford continues to show up. In 1-on-1s he sped past cornerback Leon Hall for a TD. But Hall came back and made a nice leaping pick in front of wide receiver Brandon Tate…

Hall, who has made 101 starts at corner, is listed No. 2 behind Jones at right corner with Dre Kirkpatrick starting at the other corner…

But Hall starts in the first nickel package in the slot. On Monday, linebacker Chris Carter, a pass rusher who may not fit but he may make himself fit in the preseason games, rushed as an end with the first nickel group…

Wide receiver Brandon Tate (unknown) and tight end Matt Lengel (dehydration) left practice early...Left end Carlos Dunlap appeared to get a veteran's day off. He's taken a slew of snaps this summer...

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