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Camp report: Power of prayer has MJ prepping for opener; Father-son tie; Hall of versatility


Leon Hall is your Player of the Day.

 For Michael Johnson it was the power of prayer.

It's been 15 days since Johnson went down in a sickening heap during the first 9-on-7 contact of the season. Although there has been no official announcement by the Bengals, it is widely believed he suffered a mild medial collateral ligament sprain in his knee. What we do know, but didn't know in that awful first hour, is that it wasn't the dreaded season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tear.

"I prayed before they moved me," Johnson recalled before Monday's practice. "Whatever was wrong with it, it was going to be less wrong. When I prayed, whatever it was initially it was going to be less than what it could have been. That's the way it worked out."

Cincinnati Bengals host Training Camp practice at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields 08/17/2015

And because of that, he believes he'll be ready for the Sept. 13 opener Oakland and is confident he'll overcome not having a preseason.

"They do a good job here. They'll have me ready," Johnson said of the rehab crew.

Johnson, the popular right end and key figure in the revival of the Bengals defensive line rotation, made a triumphant return in free agency after a one-year hiatus in Tampa. He had some other thoughts while rolling on the ground after a blocker lost his balance and fell on his knee.

"This isn't how it's supposed to go," Johnson recalled.  "This isn't the story."

But what is the story is that Johnson is returning to a defensive line that is teeming with talent. It may be even more talented physically than the 2013 line with the re-signing of Pat Sims, the emergence of Will Clarke, and the drafting of rookie Marcus Hardison.

"Everybody can play,' said Johnson, who caught Friday night's impressive showing against the Giants on tape. "It made me want to speed up this (rehab)."

The Bengals' first road trip of the season is destined for, of all places, Tampa and next Monday's game at 8 p.m. on ESPN. Johnson won't make that trip, but if he did it wouldn't have been as emotional as the Bengals' last trip there back in November when Johnson was a Buc. He's still close to Bucs defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, his '09 draft classmate in Cincinnati.

"They have a group message down there (in Tampa)," said Johnson, who texted all last year with the Bengals D-Line. "But I haven't heard anything from that group in a while."

Johnson handled the injury much better than a lot of other veterans would have. He didn't grouse about rookies not knowing how to play.

"You don't ever want to be straight-legged whenever you're on the field," Johnson said.  "You want to keep your feet moving. Keep the feet hot…I wasn't in a good enough football position."

FATHER-SON TIE: Like his father, defensive tackle DeShawn Williams didn't get drafted out of Clemson after a standout career. Like his father, DeShawn signed with the Bengals after the draft. Now DeShawn wants to take that step running back Ronald Williams didn't take in the 1992 and 1993 training camps and make the club. In fact, when DeShawn was born in late 1992, his dad was a Bengal.

"Ronald was a good, big back who got hurt when he was here,' said Jim Anderson, the former long-time Bengals running backs coach. "He was on our developmental squad and got some yards in the preseason games. Good people."

Back in the day, the Bengals coaches traveled all over the place. Nowadays, they basically look at the top prospects at their positions. But in 1992, they canvased even the free agents and Anderson remembered scouting the elder.

"He had a very good first couple of years before he got hurt," is the way Anderson remembers it. "If he hadn't got hurt, I think he would have been drafted. He had numbers."

The 5-11, 215-pound Williams moved on to have a fine career in the CFL, where he racked up 6,110 yards in seven seasons for four teams and won a Grey Cup with the 1999 Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

DeShawn is also racking up some preseason memories in Cincinnati, starting with Friday night's sack. Anderson has already reached out and told him if he needs anything, he's here.

"It's funny how it worked out," DeShawn said. "Pops played at Clemson. I played at Clemson. He went to the Bengals, I went to the Bengals. He just told me to do better than what he did and that's what I'm going to do."


It could have been Andy Dalton for his two-way performance. Crisp passing (17-for-21 in 11-on-11s) and even crisper critiques to his offense.

It could have been tight end Tyler Eifert with another dominant six-catch day.

It could have been wide receiver Marvin Jones, who in seven-on-seven snagged a deep ball and then caught a three-yard slant for a TD and in 11-on-11caught a deep ball over the middle and held on despite being corralled around the neck by safety George Iloka on a clean effort to break it up.

It could have been wide receiver Adam Jones, who picked off quarterback Josh Johnson when he jumped a route over the middle to wide receiver Brandon Tate and nearly did the same when Johnson tried to hit wide receiver Denarius Moore over the middle, but Jones dropped it.

It could have been defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry, who kept getting pressure no matter where he lined up, at end or at tackle in the nickel.

But give it to Hall on this day they worked in full pads but kept hitting to a minimum in the team scrimmages.

The week began when he wasn't listed as a starter on the depth chart for the first time since November of his rookie year in 2007, when he began a stretch of eight straight starts to end the season on his way to 101 career starts. Well, maybe head coach Marvin Lewis didn't list him as a starter until the next year because he's funny about that stuff, but suffice to say it was an important move, albeit expected.

There's a lot of stuff going on around Hall and yet he has put his head down, hasn't said a word, and put in a pro's pro performance this past week against the Giants.

Sure, he can't run like he used to and when he ended up second on the depth chart it renewed questions about their decision to take his $10 million salary cap hit this season. But then he goes out and shows you why his versatility is so important to this secondary.

On Monday, playing both slot corner and safety with Darqueze Dennard out with a groin injury, Hall made some plays in seven-on-seven. He picked off one deep ball and then got his hand on a ball headed to Eifert over the middle, maybe the only play all day that anyone prevented him from catching a ball.

People, you'll be very happy Hall is on this club some time very soon.

PLAY OF THE DAY: There are a bunch of candidates here, too. Dalton's lovely 60-yard bomb to A.J. Green running down the right sideline between Iloka and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Marvin Jones' deep ball grab in seven-on-seven. Cornerback Josh Shaw on the sidelines sticking with a route and knocking the ball out of the hands of wide receiver Desmond Lawrence.

But we'll go with one where Dalton made a quick read and fired it over the middle to Eifert, whom made a leaping catch. Radio play-by-play man Dan Hoard noted that for some reason rookie defensive tackle DeShawn Williams had been involved in the coverage and, really, who can blame defensive coordinator Paul Guenther? No one else has covered Eifert this camp, so keep trying. Even if that's not the way it was drawn up.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson on Dalton taking charge after center Russell Bodine's low snap:

"I didn't have to say anything. I just sat there and watched. I wanted to see what everybody was going to do. The quarterback did it. That was very pleasing to me because this is his offense."

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Quarterback AJ McCarron, who has missed the last week with pulled rib cartilage, was on a reduced pitch count in individuals and after he was done he wrapped ice around his ribs. He said it feels better after his first day of throwing in a week…

Backup left tackle Jake Fisher (shoulder) only did individuals drills…Right tackle Andre Smith (unknown) dressed but didn't participate in team drills and could be seen riding the bike…Cornerback Brandon Ghee and wide receiver Onterio McCalebb were out with what appeared to be hamstring pulls…

Running backs Rex Burkhead (neck) and Cedric Peerman (knee) returned to practice after getting nicked in Friday's 23-10 victory over the Giants…Dennard (groin) was out after leaving late in the first half…

The Bengals are off Tuesday before their final public practices of training camp at 3 p.m. Wednesday and 1 p.m. Thursday…

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