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Notes: Dennard looks to come back No. 1; Pads still the thing for WRs


 Darqueze Dennard will be back for camp.

The Bengals ended their spring workouts successfully Thursday

No one got hurt.

But when we see them again for the first day of training camp, which is the last week in July, they hope to have back several players who missed the dozen practices in May and June.

Leading the list are several young players taken in the last two drafts that have flashed, among them tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher, fullback Ryan Hewitt, wide receiver James Wright, and cornerback Darqueze Dennard. Veteran middle linebacker Rey Maualuga is also expected to be back at some point in training camp. It's not clear if Wright is going to be back for that first day, but Ogbuehi, Fisher, Dennard, and Hewitt are expected back.

Dennard, who had shoulder surgery after getting hurt Nov. 22 in Arizona, figures to be the leading candidate to be No. 1 slot corner between starters Adam Jones and Dre Kirkpatrick, but he stops you right there.

'Trying to limit me, huh?" Dennard asked after Thursday's practice. "I see what you're saying, but I see myself as a No. 1 corner. I think that's the mindset of the whole defensive backfield. Everyone wants to be a No. 1. That's what will make us so good. Competing and pushing each other hard is going to make us better as a whole."

Dennard went through individual drills this week as well as some special teams work. He's played just 250 snaps in two seasons thanks to injury and Leon Hall, but with Hall unsigned this is clearly his best moment to seize some time. Dennard had the slot job when he got hurt and felt like he was just hitting his stride when he got hurt.

Now he's looking at as a No. 1 pick in 2014, one of four first-round corners in the room.

"I've been waiting on this moment for a while," Dennard said. "I've been praying on this moment since the day I got drafted. I've been preparing for it. I've been preparing for it mentally and physically."

WHY?: After talking to guys like head coach Marvin Lewis and wide receivers coach James Urban, you wonder A) Why the Bengals risked injury to go out there 12 times the past month in helmets and shorts and B) Why the media bothered to cover it.

   "We don't have to judge. We don't get to judge. We don't need to worry about that, so that's a mental exercise that would be wasteful. We'll get to evaluate him when we get to play in the four preseason games. When we get an opportunity to play live football, we'll get a chance to judge him," said Lewis said of prospects like tight end C.J. Uzomah.

And Urban reminded everyone after practice that defenses weren't allowed to cover receivers with bump-and-run.

"I told the receivers, you all have a good feeling," Urban said. "But we haven't played bump-and-run and that's what you get probably 70, 80 percent of the time. We haven't played real defense. Forget the pads.  We haven't played bump-and-run. That's the big hurdle. How do we get off the line?"

So take the 12 practices undrafted rookie Alex Erickson of Wisconsin looked so good and file them.

"He's a smart, crafty, bright-eyed hard working player," Urban said. "I want to see how he does when the pads come on. Some little guys disappear when the pads come on, some show up more than you ever think they would. I wouldn't count anything against him."

Urban said sophomore Jake Kumerow has improved in his consistency, but can he get off the line? He said speedy sophomore slot receiver Mario Alford needs to be more consistent. It appears he has to catch the ball more often than he did the past month.  

"He's like a tease," Urban said. "You see what you can do on one play then the next it's 'Ah.' (He) needs to make the 'Ahs' go much more away."

He thinks guys like veteran Brandon LaFell and sixth-rounder Cody Core are going to look good in pads.

"(LaFell) is a pro. He works hard, he knows how to play football," Urban said. "(He)'s a blocker. He takes good angles. When the ball goes the other way he chases it down. That's what he does . .. (Core) is a big, strong fast, powerful man. He looks much better playing football than he does running around in shorts."

Urban says Tyler Boyd, the second-rounder, has been as advertised and that means he's going to help them.

"He's getting better every day," Urban said. "He had such a great career in college, don't think this is going to be easy . . . He's improving every day. He'll help us. He's really crafty. He knows how to catch the ball. He takes good angles. He knows the game. But he's going to have to be a technician. He has to be perfect with alignment and assignment. We'll get him there."

Urban doesn't know if they can get Wright there as he recovers from micro fracture knee surgery. But he called rehab chief Nick Cosgray "unbelievable,' for getting him this far, which is individual drills: "Literally it's a toe tester. If it feels good, he'll keep going."

Urban had a word of advice for them as he heads into his 13th NFL training camp: "This NFL training camp may be the hardest thing you've ever done in sports. If you think it it's going to easy, you better change your mind now."

Which gets us back to, why the last 12 practices?

ROSTER MOVE: The Bengals waived rookie free-agent linebacker Gionni Paul of the University of Utah after practice Thursday.

Cincinnati Bengals host minicamp at Paul Brown Stadium 6/16/2016

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