In this week of linebackers taking themselves out of games because they don't want to share snaps and running backs leaving the sidelines because they're not getting carries, we give you the Bengals backfield of Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill.
Bernard reported he felt good Thursday after zipping around the University of Cincinnati bubble, bringing him one day closer to coming back after missing three games with a shoulder and hip injuries. The Bengals put him at full go on the injury report, but indications are they are going to ease him back in while they keep giving the rock to Hill.
"(The carries situation is) going to work itself out. I'm not worried about that," Bernard said. "As ballplayers we can't worry about that. We let the coaches deal with that. When we get the opportunities, you just have to take advantage of it. There are always benefits to have two backs in the backfield that can do just as much as the other guy."
The 5-foot-7, 205-pound Bernard quickly established his toughness when he came out in the second round last season and didn't miss a game until this month. He took a hellacious shot on the perimeter when nobody blocked on a screen against Indianapolis Oct. 19. Still, he played the next week against Baltimore but the shots were piling up and he couldn't go the next three weeks.
But he's adamant that it doesn't mean he has to cut down his work load because of his size. At the moment, Bernard has 131 touches (109 runs, 22 catches) and the 5-11, 230-pound Hill has 129 with 113 runs and 16 catches. Hill's 715 scrimmage yards leads all rookie running backs. Bernard, at 625, is halfway to his rookie total of 1,209.
"No, no, no. I play football, I know the consequences of playing football and I love the game. I don't worry about (stuff like that)," Bernard said. "If you ask a lot of running backs they don't preferably like to just be able to do one thing. We're built to do whatever the coaches want us to do. One guy may be able to do something better than the other guy and we just leave that in the coaches' hands."
Bernard also understands he plays one of the NFL's more vulnerable positions. And he thinks he can use that understanding to his advantage when taking care of his body.
"I think every running back has a number of hits in their career, you just have to find ways to limit as many shots as you can take," Bernard said. "Whether that, sometimes, is being smart and running out of bounds or getting down when you know you've got ten guys on your back. You just have to know when to turn it on. If it's a goal-line situation, third-and-one or something like that to pick up the extra yards, you know when to turn it on. It's just a matter of being smart and being a smart football player."
Bernard says he enjoyed watching Hill become the first Bengals rookie in 46 years to post two 150-yard rushing games in the season while he recuperated and he doesn't anticipate a problem as the Bengals sort out the snaps.
"He was doing a great job. His assignments – that's where it all starts off as assignments – picking up blitzes left and right," Bernard said. "Running the ball, breaking tackles that's what matters the most as a running back getting assignments and making yards.
"We know what both of us are capable of doing. Everybody in there knows. It's just a matter of going out there and playing and not really being greedy. And cheering for each other. I think that's the big thing. We're friends and because we're friends it makes this a lot easier."
ROLL CALL:Also full go were right guard Kevin Zeitler (calf) after he was limited Wednesday and right tackle Andre Smith (ankle) for the second straight day.
Starting cornerback Terence Newman returned to practice in limited work, so he may be able to go in Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Houston. Newman hasn't played since leaving the Nov. 6 Cleveland game with a knee issue.
Starting WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict has missed the last three games since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and it looks like he'll miss another after heading to the rehab field for the second straight day. Starting right end Wallace Gilberry (back) returned after he was out Wednesday and was limited, as was backup running back Cedric Peerman (hip).
Starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth and backup guard Mike Pollak looked to be resting their knees in their weekly veteran's day off. Backup right end Margus Hunt (ankle) was out again and looks like he'll be inactive Sunday.
A.J. McCarron was one happy rookie quarterback before Thursday's practice. His practice debut on Wednesday may have not been an artistic success, but it was a practice.
"I had a smile on my face the whole day," McCarron said. "I could have messed up the whole practice. I was just having fun. I felt like a kid again out playing the game in the backyard. I was just excited to play football."
He had no worries about his right shoulder tightening up again, like it has ever since he arrived in the fifth round back in May. Since early August he figures he's thrown somewhere between three and four seasons worth passes. About 3,000, he believes. The Bengals opted to go with a strengthening program from director or rehab Nick Cosgray rather than surgery and McCarron says he feels great.
The problem is that while Cosgray is a highly respected trainer who has shepherded Carson Palmer (elbow), Leon Hall (two Achilles' tears), and Andrew Whitworth (knee) through some high-profile injuries, he's not much of a receiver even though he now has 3,000 catches.
"I haven't thrown to a receiver in a long time," McCarron said with a laugh. "It's different going from that speed and that height to faster and taller guys. (Cosgray is) not running routes, he's just standing in spots."
McCarron said his best ball of the day came when he chucked a corner route to wide receiver Greg Little. Although rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard got his hand on it at the end of the play to break it up, McCarron threw it 40-45 yards from the right hash to the left side outside the numbers.
"Seeing it in the air and knowing that you've still got more that you can put on it, it felt good," he said.
McCarron feels like the organization has him in its developmental, long-term plans, starting at the top with Bengals president Mike Brown.
"I'm in a great situation," McCarron said. "Mr. Brown, Mr. Troy (Blackburn), coach (Marvin) Lewis, everybody has been great about it and talked to me. It seems like they've got a plan and they're high on me, so it's a good feeling. "
HUE WANTED: The Bengals can't even get to December without one of their coordinators being in the mix for a head coaching job.
After losing defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to Minnesota and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to Washington to start this season, the fans in Oakland have begun a movement to bring back Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson as the head coach of the Raiders.
In the one year Jackson had the job in 2011, he came within six minutes of leading the 8-8 Raiders to their first playoff berth since 2002. No one has come close before or since.
ProFootballTalk.com ran the entire ad that ran in the Oakland Tribune paid for by "supporters of Hue Jackson," although they misidentified him as the defensive coordinator when he was the offensive coordinator:
"We, diehard fans of the Oakland Raiders, encourage the current ownership and management to Hire Coach Hue Jackson in 2015. We want to publish an open letter in this newspaper and make our voices heard. Please visit https://fundly.com/hire-hue-jackson and visit our webpage at www.bringbackhuejackson.com and go to Facebook to like Hire Hue Jackson.
Ever since our Super Bowl loss in 2002, our beloved Raiders organization has been having unsuccessful, losing seasons. In 2010, we hired Coach Hue Jackson as defensive coordinator, who came in to work alongside then Head Coach Tom Cable. He aided the franchise to bounce back from a 4-12 record to an 8-8 record. Hue Jackson was promoted to Head Coach. Our players were motivated and wanted to play for Coach Jackson, and there was a huge shift in culture within the Raiders locker room. That season, our team went 8-8, just missing the playoffs. This success was in spite of the 132-day NFL lockout, losing our starting quarterback Jason Campbell to injury, and then losing our running back Darren McFadden. In addition, our legendary, trendsetting, trailblazing owner, Al Davis passed away. Mark Davis assumed ownership while grieving his loss and it was Hue Jackson's loyalty to the franchise that saw him take on more responsibilities.
Despite the firing of Coach Allen, our record as of print is 0-10 and 0-16 over two seasons! Our team was in a better position with Coach Hue Jackson. Raiders Nation let your voice be heard; hire Hue Jackson in 2015!"