Domata Peko had a smile as big as Wallace Gilberry's motor before Thursday's practice when he pointed to his old and new teammate at his locker in the row of defensive linemen.
"How many times have you seen him chase a guy down from the other side?" asked Peko of Gilberry's highly-regarded hustle.
That's one of the reasons he's back, re-signing this week after a brief stint in Detroit.
"I never left. My heart was still here," Gilberry said. "My mind was somewhere else, for various reasons, but my heart was still here and it's good to come back and be accepted with open arms. But, I've got to go get it done. That's the most important thing."
Gilberry never really left the line's famous group text, either, which still includes Robert Geathers in his second year of retirement.
"I was, but I got mad at them because they were having too much fun so I took myself out of the group," Gilberry said. "But I put myself back into the group now, so we're back."
Since he's already played 62 games in this system, defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has no doubt he can help right away Monday (8:30-p.m.-Cincinati's Channel 5, ESPN) in New York against the Giants. Left end Carlos Dunlap and head coach Marvin Lewis are raving about how well Gilberry knows the players around him.
"I'm not going to say it's a piece of cake because there's still a lot of work to be done, and I haven't played football in a month," Gilberry said. "I feel good. My body feels good. Like the guys said, it's different when you are coming into a place and they know you. I don't have to learn them and the plays, if that makes sense. It feels good being back home, being back with Carlos and Mike (Johnson) and those guys. They understand me, and I understand them and we've just got to get it done."
By the way, Johnson (calf), the starting right end that is going to split time with Gilberry, returned to practice Thursday in limited fashion after sitting out Tuesday. Backup wide receiver James Wright (hamstring) also didn't practice. WILL backer Vontaze Burfict (thigh) and defensibe tackle Pat Sims (ribs) were limited.
The mystery of starting middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was solved a bit with Thursday's injury report. He's missed the last two days with a fibula issue and that suggests he won't play Monday. So with the Bengals looking at some of their younger players, does that mean Burfict slides over to start in the middle and rookie Nick Vigil gets his first start at WILL? Or does Vincent Rey come off the bench to start in the middle and Burfict stays at WILL? Or does Burfict go to the middle and Rey and Vigil take turns at WILL?
ODELL UP: After helping hold Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown to four catches for 39 yards earlier this season, Bengals starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and his guys now get the Giants' Odell Beckham Jr.
Not only is Beckham a favorite son of the NFL plastered all over ads and highlights, but he's a heck of a receiver, too, with his 676 yards one behind Brown and in seventh place in the NFL.
"He definitely can run any route. But him and AB are not the same receivers, if you ask me," Kirkpatrick said. "I feel he's a little bit more elusive in his transition. AB, he goes off what his quarterback does, where Odell kind of creates his own plays."