Vincent Rey and Orson Charles go toe-to-toe in Sunday's Oklahoma Drill.
Updated: 7-28-13, 6:40 p.m.
When head coach Marvin Lewis talks about getting to the gate, he's talking about the 8th. And that's not Aug. 8, the preseason opener in Atlanta. That's Sept 8, the regular-season opener in Chicago.
And that's why it would be surprising to see two-time Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green (knee) any time before that game in Atlanta and why it wasn't all that surprising he backed off left tackle Andrew Whitworth and left guard Clint Boling and didn't dress them Sunday in the first day of pads.
Whitworth (knee) and Boling (ankle) had offseason surgeries and missed spring ball. After they worked the first three days of camp, Lewis sees an off-day coming Tuesday that he can turn into two and three days off for his vets.
"A little soreness. It was best to hold them back a little bit today," Lewis said. "Clint's been battling a little bit of a hamstring. I just felt like it was good to get time off today, see about tomorrow and then they get another day of rest (on Tuesday).
"That's what matters (getting to the gate). Get there knowing what do with the right people."
But there's no question the flux on the offensive line hurt the crispness the offense showed in the first three days. With right tackle Andre Smith (thigh) expected to get cleared soon, the move impacted three spots. Anthony Collins moved from right to left tackle, and Mike Pollak and Dennis Roland moved up to play left guard and right tackle, respectively, with the first team.
Quarterback Andy Dalton didn't get much time to throw, and when he did it didn't help. Wide receiver Marvin Jones got separation again, but couldn't haul in a long one from Dalton and went crashing to the ground when he couldn't hold on to a well-thrown ball. He was down for about 10 seconds but got up and kept playing.
Dalton completed just four of 10 passes in 11-on-11 after a three-day stretch he was at 70 percent.
» For the first time in the two summers the Bengals have been on the Paul Brown Stadium practice fields, they hit capacity with a little more than 2,000 fans, about 500 more than last year's biggest crowd on the fields. When fans left, fans that were waiting were allowed in.
» The back seven responded well in tight pass coverage on the first day in pads. Red-hot rookie tight end Tyler Eifert didn't have a catch in 11-on-11 and cornerbacks Brandon Ghee and Dre Kirkpatrick came up with some nice breakups.
» With running back Cedric Peerman (ankle) out, safety Tony Dye and rookie running back Rex Burkhead took turns as the punter's personal protector. Meanwhile return men Adam Jones, Andrew Hawkins, Giovani Bernard and Marvin Jones caught everything.
PLAYER OF THE DAY: Converted tight end Orson Charles continued to lead the fullback derby and his performance in the Oklahoma Drill can't hurt him. He took a trio of linebackers in Rey Maualuga, Vinnie Rey and J.K. Schaffer.
Lewis doesn't think it's much of a transition. Not after Charles caught eight balls in 304 snaps as a rookie, according to Pro Football Focus.
"(The position) is called a different name," Lewis said. "(But) he's doing most of the things asked of him a year ago."
PLAY OF THE DAY: Did or didn't he? Tight end Jermaine Gresham had a good day. He answered the call when he went up against SAM linebacker James Harrison in the Oklahoma in a stalemate, and when he asked to finish the proceedings against two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins it looked like he tied up that one, too.
But Atkins and the defense said Gresham false-started. Quarterback Andy Dalton backed Gresham as he expounded to the Hard Knocks cameras. Atkins shrugged and said the proof was in Lewis keeping the offense on the field to sign autographs.
"That's because Jermaine jumped," Atkins said.
"He tried to cheat. He got caught."
*MORE OKLAHOMA: *Safety Reggie Nelson, not a big fan of the Okie, made a big play when he wasn't even in it. He leaped into the fray and pulled rookie wide receiver Tyrone Goard off the top of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick...The 6-8 Margus Hunt on defense got underneath the 6-9 Dennis Roland on offense...In a Big Ten matchup, Ohio State rookie Reid Fragel held up well on second-year Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still...In a Michigan State matchup, Kyle Cook handled old friend Domata Peko...Michigan rookie wide receiver Roy Roundtree found out how big NFL safeties are when Taylor Mays and Shawn Williams flexed their muscles...Eifert showed maybe defenses can't go nickel when he's in the game as he did a good job vs. WILL backer Emmanuel Lamur.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: So much for being sharp the first three days. Lewis on the offense: "The offense has to get going a little bit. The first time the defense gets a chance to play closer to the football, they got a little edge."
ANOTHER QUOTE OF THE DAY: Rookie safety Shawn Williams unloaded in the Oklahoma on wide receiver Roy Roundtree: "They put me up against receivers. At Georgia, I went up against fullbacks and tight ends, so it was kind of easy."
But he also had good joust against fullback John Conner late in the drill.
The Oklahoma Drill if you're a fan or media type.
The Oklahoma drill if you're a player.
"It's pointless, if you ask me," said WILL backer Vontaze Burfict, who racked up 174 tackles as a rookie. "It's not for the defense. It's made tor a running back just to run through a hole."
Veteran safety Reggie Nelson is too busy trying to mold a secondary instead of getting a training camp skin on the wall when the whistle blows for the Oklahoma Drill at roughly 3:30 p.m. during Sunday's practice at Paul Brown Stadium.
"I just hope my name's not on the list," Nelson said with a smile. "I just hope everybody gets through this Oklahoma Drill healthy and get back to practicing. If my name's out there and there's a guy in front of me, I've got a job to do."
But for the men in the mosh pits, such as left tackle Andrew Whitworth and SAM linebacker James Harrison, they do this pretty much every day. Whitworth says even without pads the front seven can't help but bang with the offense as long as everyone is wearing helmets.
This is supposed to be Harrison's Coming Out Party as the NFL's highest-profile hitter making his debut in Bengals pads. But for Harrison, it's just another day at the office.
"That's the same thing we do every other day; the tight ends against the linebackers," Harrison said. "We actually have to read. Now, you don't have to read. They're just coming straight at you. Hit. Shed. Just another drill."
Burfict only wants to make sure he's fundamentally sound. Forget the big hit.
"The offense is going to hold, of course," Burfict said. "My main objective is to get off the block. I don't want to get pancaked. I don't want to get pushed back. I want to stand my ground and get off the block. I don't care about making the tackle. I just want to secure my gap."
Part of the deal is teaching the rookies how to practice and how not take anybody out for the year trying to be heroes.
"They have to learn to practice in the NFL. We have to take care of our guys," Nelson said.
ROOMIE MATCHUP: Burfict could end up going against his camp roommate. Burfict was the first one to greet Charles Friday when he chest-bumped him after he drilled linebacker Brandon Joiner in a run-game drill.
"He's a decent blocker. He's working hard to change positions," Burfict said. "I come into the hotel room and he's studying until he closes his eyes. He's a good competitor."
There's an Odd Couple thing going, so they've only joked about maybe matching up.
"He's more laid back and I'm hyper," Burfict said.
HARRISON SURVEYING: Harrison is still in his role of observing the scene and making sure his switch from defensive end to SAM backer is his top priority. Until then, he doesn't appear ready to make any pronouncements about his new team.
"You can't come to any conclusions right now. Its four days. We just had our first shoulder-pad practice and now we're going to have our first padded practice," Harrison said Sunday morning. "No one is in football shape. No one has the offense or defense down all the way. We still have a lot corrections and a lot of defenses to put in."
So, no, he's not ready to expound on Dalton after just a few conversations.
"He's a good guy. He seems like the leader of the offense," Harrison said. "I'm just sitting back trying to learn what I'm doing, to be honest with you. Nobody is close to a finished product. There's a lot of work left that needs to be added."
Harrison has looked nimble in coverage. He defended a ball in space on Friday and on Saturday he was draped all over tight end Tyler Eifert and the rookie still made a finger-tip grab over the middle.
"The biggest difference is where I'm lining up and what I'm reading," he said. "It's not that much of a change." PITTA FALLOUT:Jamison Hensley, ESPN.com's AFC North reporter who covered the Ravens for a decade, says tight end Dennis Pitta's season-ending hip surgery "could be devastating" for the defending Super Bowl champs.
Hensley, covering Bengals practice Sunday, says quarterback Joe Flacco has to find a security blanket.
"Based on what Pitta did last year and with the Anquan Boldin trade, you can safely say he was going to be their No. 1 receiver," Hensley said. "That's the question the Ravens have to answer now. Who is going to be the consistent threat in the passing game? Torrey Smith offers explosion, but when it comes to third down and red zone, who is Flacco looking for now?"
Before the Pitta injury, Hensley had the Bengals as Baltimore's top rival. Now it's closer.
"I thought the Bengals keeping the team together that made the playoffs the last two years was already on track to be the chief competitor," he said. "Now losing Pitta, if it doesn't even things out it certainly makes it tighter because it pus Baltimore down a notch."