Updated: 4:20 p.m.
This is the day.
Monday, the first practice of the regular season, is the day Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had in mind as he looked at his injured list in the preseason while prepping for next Monday's opener (7 p.m.-ESPN) in Baltimore.
After the dust cleared, all but left end Carlos Dunlap (knee) and rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (leg) were on the field. Most noteworthy were running back Bernard Scott (hand) out since the first week of training camp, and quarterback Andy Dalton, who left the preseason finale with a bruised throwng shoulder.
Backup cornerbacks Adam Jones and Jason Allen, who played one preseason game between them, looked ready to go Monday, as did left end Robert Geathers after he hasn't practiced since July.
Before practice at a news conference Lewis said Kirkpatrick is going to be lost to rehab for a few more weeks but he's confident Jones and Allen have overcome their muscle pulls. And with Geathers looking at making his team-leading 89th Bengals start if Dunlap can't go, Lewis is confident the nine year-vet won't miss a beat. If last Thursday against the Colts had been real and not the preseason finale, Lewis said they would have played.
"I'm going to try it," Geathers said before practice, sidelined after arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 2.
"That's good and bad," Lewis said of his sidelined corners. "Their legs are fresh. That's what we want. Guys like Robert Geathers, that's the best thing we can do so we wouldn't have to wear him out out there. It's a good thing.
"Jason did everything he could do until he couldn't do it anymore because he was wore out because everybody else was out, but he showed enough when he was out there every day for two straight weeks before he got injured. Adam is going to be Adam. He's always going to deal with these kind of things and I think he just has to learn to overcome it. Their legs are going to be fresh and they'll be ready to run."
REY SAYS BENGALS, DEFENSE BETTER: Another guy who has been out the last month, middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (sprained knee) could have played last Thursday, too, but now he's ready to show that his team and his defense is better than the team that went 0-4 against Baltimore and Pittsburgh last year.
"Not being able to beat those teams last year, being 0-4, I think this year is a different mindset for us," Maualuga said. "I know we're a better team than we were last year. I know these group of guys that we have in this locker room that we're going to do something crazy this year. We're going to surprise some people."
Maualuga also says this defense is better than the one that allowed Ravens running back Ray Rice runs of 70 and 51 yards in last season's regular-season finale at Paul Brown Stadium.
"It's always about 27," Maualuga said of Rice's number. "Containing him and watching him and making sure we don't let him out of our sights. If you're asking me if we're a better defense than then, yes we are a better defense."
Lewis agrees. He says the Bengals are better at safety and in the middle with rookie Vontaze Burfict backing up Maualuga.
NO BAD SNAPS: So far so good.
During Jeff Faine's first practice as the Bengals center, there were no bad snaps and that's exactly what offensive coordinator Jay Gruden wants to avoid next Monday night in Baltimore.
"He did a remarkable job for his first day," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander, "but we've got a lot to do before Monday night."
Ever since he returned from Florida on Friday, Faine has been going at it hard. He and Alexander watched the four preseason games while Faine made the calls, and during Sunday's walkthrough he made acquaintances with his two young guards as sophomore Clint Boling looks to make his first NFL start at left guard and freshman Kevin Zeitler makes his first at right. Faine, a veteran of three teams and 117 NFL starts, seemed hard to faze Monday.
"It's going to be one of those things where we're going to have to feel our way through it and just continue to communicate," Faine said. "The advantage these guys have got is they know the scheme. I'm still learning, but I've got a little bit of experience on my side. We're just going to have to mesh it together."
Faine last worked against the Ravens in 2010 when his Bucs lost, 17-10, and even though the Ravens are working on their second defensive coordinator since then, it shouldn't be all that different. Dean Pees was the linebackers coach under Greg Mattison and Chuck Pagano.
LOCKER GAMES: Lewis says there's a reason the Bengals do everything, so take note of the new locker arrangement now that the temporary stalls have been removed from the middle of the locker room with about 25 fewer players around for the regular season.
Dalton remains in the corner near the equipment room and next to him is rookie receiver Mohamed Sanu. Next to him is Sanu's best friend on the team, fellow rookie receiver Marvin Jones, and next to him is veteran backup quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
It says the Bengals think the kids are going to be around awhile. Lewis wouldn't elaborate, but Sanu could figure it out.
"Ask little questions," Sanu said. "It gives us a better understanding of how to approach the game and everything else."
Sanu got a text from Jones on Saturday telling him they were next to each other in the corner "with Andy and Bruce," and Sanu thought, "That was pretty cool. That's a great location."
Of course, ever since the draft, when Sanu arrived with the third-round pick and Jones came via the fifth, they've been joined at the hip. The Jersey Sanu and the California Jones hit it off from Day One. They were roommates during the spring camps and at the NFL rookie symposium and Sanu says, "We're tight. He's like a brother to me."
Jones, who did most of his 16.7-yards per preseason damage with Gradkowski, was just happy to get a wooden locker.
"It's nice to be able to see the whole locker room. It's great to be part of an official NFL locker room," Jones said.
More lockers: Faine, 31, is next to offensive de facto captain and left tackle Andrew Whitworth, 30, the two oldest offensive starters. Burfict is in between a pair of solid young veterans, right end Michael Johnson and outside linebacker Vincent Rey. Wide receiver Armon Binns is next to wide receiver A.J. Green.