The Leon Hall Rehab has veered off its straight line but that means it is still on target for a return in time for the first snap of training camp.
Hall, sidelined since he tore his Achilles Nov. 13 against the Steelers, is backpedaling confidently into the four-month mark since surgery. Along with other football-related activities under the direction of Bengals rehab director Nick Cosgray.
"When they say nine to 12 months, I didn't think I'd be back on the field running at four months and doing drills," Hall said. "But I'm backpedaling, doing the cones. I actually feel pretty good. I feel better than I did three to four weeks ago. The Achilles feels stronger than it did a month ago. It's not where it needs to be, but I can feel it coming along."
Hall has heard the talk. A cornerback never comes back from a torn Achilles the way he was. At least not that first year. But he's not buying it.
"I'm not thinking I'll be where I was when I got hurt," he said. "I'm thinking I'll be better."
Hall is pounding it five days a week and when he heads home to San Diego for a week he's already made arrangements for a trainer to continue the same regimen. He only has to look next to him in Cosgray's drills to know that there is a good track record.
Linebacker Roddrick Muckelroy tore his Achilles in the first 30 minutes of the last training camp and he thinks he'll be back on the field for some work in the May camps nine months after surgery.
ACROSS THE FIELD:The FieldTurf that has served as the Paul Brown Stadium game field since 2004 begins to get ripped out this week with the new greensward in place by the end of April. After that is intact, two new practice fields with Bermuda grass are going to replace the two bluegrass fields across the street. They join the other Bermuda field, which held up well enough over the past three seasons that the club thought it could go with Bermuda all the way across.
"We wanted to make sure that we had one project done before starting the other so there was always a place for someone to go work out," said Bob Bedinghaus, the club's director of business development. "So in May and June there will be a grass field and the stadium field available."
Bermuda grass is more durable, but it has a history of not holding up well in cold-weather climates. Bedinghaus says the recent remarkable improvements in agronomy, as seen in the one Bermuda field, have now made it possible to go with it over bluegrass and in time for training camp.
The move to the heartier Bermuda is what made possible the decision to have the first training camp at PBS and the Bengals are paying $800,000 for a project that is to be finished by the time camp starts in late July. The stadium field installation is an estimated $350,000 that the Bengals will pay and then be reimbursed by Hamilton County over three years.
NOT SO BOUNTI-FUL: One former Bengals defender and a current one say they have never come in contact with bounties.
Brian Simmons, a starter at all three linebacker spots for the Bengals from 1998-2006, played for the Saints in 2007 but that was before the embattled Gregg Williams arrived.
"I've only been here, but I haven't heard anything like that. We have no malicious intent," said sixth-year cornerback Leon Hall. "It's football, but once you get into paying for that kind of stuff, it's a little weird."
Simmons said the only times heard about extra money being talked about was during a game and only among players and only about making a play, not hurting anyone.
"I remember maybe somebody saying before a big kickoff late in a game, 'If you can tackle this guy inside the 20, there's $500 in it for you,' " recalled Simmons, now a scout with the Jaguars. "And it would be said to one of the guys that wasn't making a lot of money. A guy battling to stay on the roster.
"But I never heard about guys putting out a hit on anybody or anything like that. Once you start using that kind of verbiage, you open everything up to question."
Hall says the Bengals don't even have pools among players. The closest thing, he says, is the DBs do pushups if they drop an interception. They also have a title belt commissioned by cornerback Nate Clements that hangs in the locker of the defensive back with the most interceptions.
"The belt is something different. You're not hurting anybody. It's an interception," Hall said. "There's nothing financially based. We've never talked about putting a guy out. That's malicious. We're all out there trying to earn a living and doing what we love to do. It's not in my makeup, so I don't understand it."
Simmons understands there is still a tough aspect to the game.
"You don't say it and you don't want to do it illegally; you play by the rules," Simmons said. "But everybody knows if you knock the other team's best player out of the game, you have a better chance of winning. That's football."