Bengals wide receiver Andrew Hawkins, or "Fresh Legs" as he's known around Paul Brown Stadium these days, practiced for the first time in 83 days Wednesday and is eligible to play in the Halloween Night game in Miami a week from Thursday.
Hawkins won't speculate if he'd be active for the game, but he figures whatever advantage he has if he plays is countered by his time on the shelf with a severely sprained ankle.
"I don't think you get that much of an advantage," Hawkins said before Thursday's practice. "In one aspect I guess (fresh legs) would be an advantage. In another aspect they have eight games under their belt and this is my first game, preseason or not. It goes both ways."
Hawkins tipped his hat to rehab trainer Nick Cosgray ("I can't tell you how good he is"), and says it's a process that has some milestones before he's ready for a game.
"It's getting to the point where you're just letting it go," he said. "That's a milestone and from there I'm comfortable on the practice field and I'm able to take it to the game. It's a little bit of a process."
But he's encouraged how the ankle bounced back Thursday morning and while he had some soreness throughout his body, Hawkins said there was nothing "alarming" since it was expected after not practicing for three months.
He's getting ready to join a corps that is much deeper than the one he left. He finished last season as Cincinnati's second-leading wide receiver to A.J. Green with 51 catches for 533 yards and now there are five receivers other than Green on pace to get within seven yards of that total.
Two of them are tight ends, one is a running back and two are wide receivers; Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Jones is on pace for 565 yards with 37 catches and Sanu is projected for 526 yards with 55 catches. The 5-7, 180-pound Hawkins is considered the fastest of the lot.
"If I didn't bring anything to the table I wouldn't be here," he said. "We all have something we're good at. That's why we're here.
"It's exciting. These guys are my brothers. I can't say how happy I am. It's cool to see. It's something you want to be a part of. My thing is I'll do whatever I'm asked to do. I feel like when I'm ready to go, I can help. That's how all the receivers are. They're making the plays when their number is called whether it's Week 1, 2, 3, 4. Hopefully I can keep it going."
The Bengals have three weeks from this past Wednesday to make a call on Hawkins for the rest of the year. They are expected to put cornerback Leon Hall (Achilles) on injured reserve when they decide to make a move. If they decide to activate Hawkins for Miami, the Bengals could keep seven receivers if they exchange him for Hall, but it also looks like they're checking out linebackers and cornerbacks to fill Hall's roster spot.
Hawkins ended up on injured reserve-recall when he went diving for a ball in an Aug. 1 practice. Asked if he dove for a ball Wednesday, he could only offer the lesson learned but he still vowed to keep diving.
"There's a time and a place," he said.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Cornerback Terence Newman (ankle) and middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (hamstring) returned to the field Thursday after sitting out Wednesday and were limited. Wide receiver Marvin Jones (shoulder) didn't work again. Right end Wallace Gilberry (knee) didn't work Thursday after he practiced Wednesday. He missed some time in Sunday's game but returned. Running back Rex Burkhead (calf), who was limited Wednesday, didn't go Thursday.
With word that the Jets game is a sellout, the Bengals are now looking at their next home game, Nov. 17, against Cleveland, and early indications are that the club is encouraged that it has a shot at keeping the season's sellout streak intact.