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Camp report: Whale-n of a practice; Hudson gives football another shot


Otis Hudson

Updated: 7 p.m.

Player of the day?

On a day everybody seemed to have the drops, wide receiver Ryan Whalen turned out to be as relentlessly reliable as ever with the hottest hand of the hottest practice of training camp Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.

With the board reading 84 degrees (perhaps in honor of tight end Jermaine Gresham's big game Thursday night), Whalen grabbed all kinds of passes from quarterback Andy Dalton, ranging from a red zone touchdown in 7-on-7 to a touchdown bomb in team sessions as he scalded a broken coverage and raced past safeties Reggie Nelson and Shawn Williams.

With head coach Marvin Lewis indicating Saturday that wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is a candidate for injured reserve-recall, two spots look open behind A.J. Green, Mohamed Sanu, Marvin Jones and Brandon Tate.

Sixth-round pick Cobi Hamilton didn't help himself with two drops, one all alone behind everybody, and he had a false start. Sanu, Tate and Dane Sanzenbacher also had drops, but they also made some fine catches in traffic. And Jones (hamstring) returned to the fray for the first time in more than a week and made a couple of nice grabs, including a big-league sideline catch on a throw from John Skelton that he corralled right inside the chalk with cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris plastered on him.

Whalen didn't do anything quite as dramatic, but his kind of cellular consistency wins roster spots. After the workout, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden raved not about his hands, but his three "pancake" blocks Thursday night in Atlanta.

"Whalen does well every day," Gruden said. "People sleep on him because he does nothing really magnificent. He just does everything right. Quarterbacks love him. I love him because he knows what to do. He's always in the right spot, he plays hard, he blocks hard … that goes unnoticed. But he's one tough kid."

PLAY OF THE DAY: You only see this when you have a top echelon cornerback on your property. Tate ran a sideline route and as clean as a whistle Leon Hall came from behind, stretched out and batted away a sure completion at the last minute and barely touched Tate in the process.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Joe Morgan, Reds Hall of Fame second baseman visiting Bengals camp: "I just don't want to be on Hard Knocks."

ANOTHER QUOTE OF THE DAY:Gruden on rookie tight end Tyler Eifert's debut Thursday night in Atlanta: "(I) was kind of surprised that he was way better in the running game than he was in the passing game. It was awful. Great in the running game and awful in the passing game. Finally I get something to yell at him about."

INJURY REPORT: A bunch of players sat Saturday, but nothing looked serious. Cornerback Brandon Ghee, who had a head injury Thursday, sat out, as did cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (ribs). So did defensive end Michael Johnson (unknown). Fullback John Conner, who tweaked his ankle early Thursday night and stayed in to finish a stellar effort, also sat out. Wide receiver A.J. Green (knee) and left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) sat out again.

NEXT UP: Family Night Sunday night. Gates open inside Paul Brown Stadium at 5 p.m. for 6-8 p.m. practice. There are two Kids Club Booths and two face painting stations. OTIS BACK:In the wake of Bengals rookie left guard-tackle Tanner Hawkinson shelved indefinitely with an ankle sprain, the Bengals reached back into the 2010 draft on Saturday and re-signed guard Otis Hudson.

Hawkinson, who left Thursday's game with an ankle sprain, surfaced in the locker room Saturday wearing a boot. Lewis ruled him out of Saturday's 7 p.m. game at PBS against Tennessee but said the ankle has improved and it may only be week or two instead of several.

Hudson has spent seven weeks on the active roster since being selected out of Eastern Illinois in the fifth round and has yet to play in a game after he served last season on the practice squad for the third year.

The Bengals didn't pursue him in the offseason and he thought about giving up the game, but he didn't and the phone rang Friday. It wasn't for an interior designer.

"I was in the process of trying to be an interior designer. I just decided to put that on the back burner now and focus on football," Hudson said. "I'm not ready to do that at all. I thought I was, but I'm not.

"I was just trying to find myself in the whole process. To see if football was really for me. I think I'm going to play for a while and worry about after football when that time comes."

The 6-5, 330-pound Hudson, 27, had such a good start to training camp in 2011 that the Bengals thought he was practicing at a starting guard-caliber. But when he injured his knee early in camp, he never recaptured the form.

He made the club out of camp in 2011 when Bobbie Williams began the season on the suspended list, but Hudson returned to the practice squad when Williams returned. When Williams suffered a season-ending ankle injury, Hudson was signed to the roster for the last three games and Wild Card playoff, but was inactive.

"I was at a big crossroads. I had my ups and downs here. It was very frustrating at times," Hudson said. "Now it comes a day at a time. Enjoy the moment. And see what happens. When I hurt my knee, it took a lot out of me because I set out in 2011 to really prove I could play in the NFL. And when I hurt my knee, I thought I was done. I just have to find that '11 (form) again."

MORGAN MANIA: Reds Hall of Famer and adviser Joe Morgan visited Bengals practice for the first time ever Saturday, but he says it won't be the last. Not with friends like defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and running backs coach Hue Jackson around. He met Zimmer when he did his radio show and the Oakland-bred Morgan met Jackson when he was the head coach of the Raiders two years ago.

Count Morgan as another one who thinks Zimmer should be a head coach.

"I've been a fan. I'm one of those guys that, I don't know if I should say this, I'm one of those guys that thinks he should be a head coach," Morgan said. "When you talk to him you understand how much he knows about this game."

Morgan spent most of the practice talking with a big baseball fan, Bengals president Mike Brown.


» Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis confirmed before Saturday's 3 p.m. workout at Paul Brown Stadium that wide receiver Andrew Hawkins's sprained ankle has been placed in a cast for 10 days and that the speedy slot receiver is a candidate for the injured reserve-recall list.

Hawkins, who got hurt Aug. 1 making a diving catch in practice, would be eligible to play in the second half of the season if he appears on that form of injured reserve that isn't assigned until final cuts on Aug. 31. » Lewis said Green and Whitworth could return to practice later this week, but he indicated he's not looking to rush the injured guys back into games.

» The Bengals were a bit taken aback with the hands-to-the-face call on center Kyle Cook on Thursday. They thought his opponent didn't have his helmet buckled properly.

"Kyle had the hands to the face, which was tough," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "He had it there for a second. The guy's helmet must not have been buckled because it flew off and he got the penalty."

» Cook is the guy who has always been special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons's ace-in-the-hole when it comes to backing up his long snapper. When Brad St. Louis did it back in the day, defensive end Justin Smith backed him up until he left via free agency after the 2007 season just as Cook was emerging. Guys like tight end Ben Utecht and linebacker Dan Skuta have also done it since, although no has been needed to spell Clark Harris since he arrived in '09.

Simmons lost Utecht to injuries and Skuta to free agency, but there has always been Cook. Saturday he gunned it back on punts and field goals with ease while Simmonns worked with eight-year defensive tackle Domata Peko for the first time. He also had Dalton holding on kicks as a potential backup for punter Kevin Huber.

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