Left end Carlos Dunlap decided to put a hex on the sophomore jinx by coming back to Bengaldom bigger and stronger than when he set the club's rookie sack record with 9.5.
But he couldn't plan for what happened in the first few weeks of training camp when he tweaked his knee twice and has yet to play in the preseason.
And he may not go in Thursday's 7 p.m. preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium against the Colts, but the goal is still playing in the Sept. 11 regular-season opener in Cleveland.
"We're taking it day by day and right now we're on that track," said Dunlap after Saturday's walkthrough on the Paul Brown Stadium field. "Today was the first day of rehab and it felt pretty comfortable. I need to get it stronger so I can be back and playing like I was. I don't want to be thinking about it. I don't want to have a knee brace."
Dunlap was flat-out unblockable during that first week of practice, capped off by that first Friday night practice when he was all over the field in coverage and on the rush. But he hurt his knee that night and sat out a few days before coming back and getting it rolled on that first day back.
"I think I did rush it back," said Dunlap, who wrenched his knee as well as pulled some quad muscles around the knee.
He hasn't been back, but Saturday under the watchful eye of rehab director Nick Cosgray he went hard and fast through rigorous movement drills in what Dunlap called his first day of rehab. He's used to it. While attending classes at the University of Florida this spring the 6-6 Dunlap put on five to seven pounds working with the football team as well as his personal trainer and arrived at about 292 pounds with the same body fat.
And he's still a growing kid. When the Bengals drafted Dunlap defensive line coach Jay Hayes envisioned him eventually playing at 305 pounds and being able to play some tackle.
"I wanted the coaches to have more confidence in giving me more plays in run and pass," said Dunlap, used mainly last year on passing downs. "My offseason keys were to come back bigger, faster, stronger and smarter than I did last year. That way the coaches would have confidence in me 100 percent. I feel like I was on that track until I hit this minor speed bump. For what I can't do, I'm doing extra things."
Dunlap, who left Gainesville after three years, chalked up his quick start to his offseason program that coincided with taking a full load of classes. After recording a 3.4 grade point average, he's just a semester shy of his degree in family, youth and community services with a minor in business.
"It's nothing too serious; it just takes time," Dunlap said. "I've been watching extra film, getting mental reps. Since I can't be out there physically practicing, I'm getting more mental reps and watching the guys and helping coach the other guys on the things I would have done. Just contributing an yway I can right now."