Updated: 8-20-12, 1:15 a.m.
First-round pick Dre Kirkpatrick made his training camp debut Sunday inside Paul Brown Stadium, but how much he can help the Bengals at cornerback in the Sept. 10 regular-season opener in Baltimore is dicey at this point. Or for the rest of the season.
After being iced with a bone spur in his knee following a spring he fought muscle pulls that limited him to four practices, Kirkpatrick worked one-on-one and in seven-on-seven but didn't do team drills. Head coach Marvin Lewis said he won't play in Thursday's 7 p.m. game against the Packers at PBS (11:35 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), but the team hopes to get him snaps in the Aug. 30 preseason finale in Indianapolis.
"Not too much so far but I would be telling a lie if I told you I was perfectly there," Kirkpatrick said as he talked about where he thinks he is after Sunday's practice. "Never arrive. That's the motto I go by. I never arrive, so I am still striding just to overcome my injury right now."
Even before Kirkpatrick surfaced with the injury two weeks before camp, there was speculation that he wouldn't dress the first couple of weeks because of the big transition he faces to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's technique.
But that was before Cincinnati's bottomless corner depth quickly ran aground. Third-year veteran Brandon Ghee (wrist) and fifth-rounder Shaun Prater (knee) are looking at season-ending injured reserve and Adam Jones and Jason Allen began their third straight week Sunday not practicing with muscle pulls.
"I've got time; I've got time to mature," Kirkpatrick said. "I am not going to let this stress me. Like I told you before, it's nothing that is going to stress me. Taking it day by day. I'm just blessed to be here. I'm going to learn. We've got a bunch of guys in front of me that got a lot of experience and I am just going to feed off those guys."
Kirkpatrick is relieved to be back on the field. He knows he literally has to catch up to the speed of the game. But he doesn't think the speed is all that different from the spring practices.
"Today I was out there moving faster than what the game really is so you are just going out there adjusting to the speed," he said. "Because those guys are going to be flying around and I don't want to be out there a step behind. That is where all the practices come in at.
"The main thing is I am always doing drills now where they're making me react instead of reacting to somebody else on their movement. That is one of the main things I got to go through, but like I say, I was rusty early on but as the practice got going I loosened up, I got on the bike and I felt great."
Wide receiver Armon Binns went up against Kirkpatrick in the one-on-ones and doesn't think it's going to take all that long for him. At 6-2, Kirkpatrick is a physical presence at all times.
"Missing all that time, he just needs to get his feet under him and he'll be fine," Binns said. "(His height) helps him so much. He's so long with real long arms. He's one of those guys that if you beat him on a route, he'll still be right there."
ZIMMER DEFENDS PASS: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed 18 of 21 passes for 175 yards last Thursday, but defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer isn't about to trash his secondary.
"A lot better than you all did," Zimmer said after Sunday's practice when the media asked what he thought of the DBs' performance. "They had a lot of completions but they were all. Want me to go through them? Minus-11, minus-1, 1 for 1, 1 for 2. They hit us on a boot that was the linebacker's play, hit us on a double post that was the corner's play and hit us on an over route that was the safety's play.
"We're going to be all right. I keep seeing (reports) how terrible we are in the secondary and I don't see it but I've only been doing it for 19 years in this league so I don't know."
He was not sarcastic, though, about safety Taylor Mays's concerns that he's blown up two teammates (two middle linebackers in Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict) in each of the two games.
"It's called friendly fire. Sometimes that happens. He's playing aggressive," Zimmer said. "He's not playing cautiously. He played pretty good in the game the other day. He hasn't been in some real difficult situations lately. He needs to do better blitzing. He's not as good a blitzer that I would like."
BURFICT OK: Burfict's first-ever concussion came courtesy of Mays and he says Mays owes him an iPad.
He passed the test to return to the field and says he'll play against Green Bay, renewing what may be the most intense roster battle on the club. Burfict and 2010 fourth-rounder Roddrick Muckelroy are trying to back up Maualuga. In the opener, Burfict had a pick and team-high five tackles. Last Thursday with Burfict on the bench, Muckelroy had a team-high seven tackles, one for a loss.
Burfict tried to add a forced fumble to his stats Thursday after tight end Michael Palmer's 20-yard catch and before Mays's mayhem.
"I was trying to go for the strip because the defender didn't see me coming," Burfict said. "I tried to poke it out and he just came and hit me."
INJURY UPDATE:Not on the field Sunday were tight end Jermaine Gresham (knee), middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) and running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (foot). So they probably won't play Thursday. Lewis said Gresham suffered a sprained knee in Atlanta, but said it wasn't as bad as the four-week sprain left end Carlos Dunlap suffered in the opener. Lewis made it sound a little more severe than Maualuga's lowest grade sprain, but the tests were negative. Which sounds like Gresham will be ready for the Sept. 10 regular-season opener in Baltimore.