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Notes: Kroft injury gives more reps to Uzomah; Jackson could return; Shaw to play more corner


 William Jackson might be back.

With Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert (ankle) shelved for possibly the first few games of the season and backup Tyler Kroft (knee) maybe missing most of the preseason, sophomore C.J. Uzomah now looks to be the No. 1 tight end with Ryan Hewitt until Kroft returns.

The very athletic and speedy 6-6, 270-pound Uzomah has had a terrific spring and summer catching the ball, but the Bengals know he can do that. They also need him to block and that's not easy sine he rarely got in a three-point stance at Auburn.

He feels like he's made progress and senses the sharp rebukes of tight end coach Jon Hayes haven't been as frequent. He feels like he's improved simply because he's repping the Bengals' talented front seven every day.

"The hardest thing about the blocking game is going against Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson every single day. They're two unbelievable d-ends," Uzomah said before Thursday's practice. "And we've got Margus (Hunt) and we've got a great d-end crew. Even blocking our SAMs and our linebackers it's a challenge.

"Obviously that aspect of it is what I would say is the toughest thing about putting your hand in the (ground) and getting after those guys. The technique and stuff is coming along. Coach is fine tuning that stuff every day and we get to work against the best, so that helps."

 Uzomah, a 2015 fifth-rounder, is playing confidently. He catches much of what is thrown his way and is a vastly different player than the rookie in the previous camp.

"Just slow down take a deep breath. Your game slows down," Uzomah said. "You're not wondering, 'Oh, man, am I going to mess this up?' 'What's my assignment?'

"There's no doubt that goes through your mind. You hear the play. There's no gray area. This is what I have. The tackle and are I together. I'm by myself. I'm running this route. I'm at this spot . I expect the ball here. The mindset is completely changed. The game slows down and it definitely helps going year one to year two."

Uzomah figures the Kroft injury is going to sharpen his game with the increase in snaps all over the place.

"It's good because we have limited numbers right now, so I'll play a certain position this time and next time I'll play a different position," said Uzomah, who is playing both tight end spots as well as fullback. "You kind of see the different looks . You see an over front on this look, you get an under front on the next look. You get to see different defenses.

"You get to go through your steps with different mechanics for different (looks). Seven technique vs. nine technique, vs. a certain blocking scheme. So it's good. It helps us a lot as players grow and get better.  I think that's what we're  kind of embracing with this."

JACKSON REPRIEVE: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis shed some light on the cornerback position before Thursday's workout on the practice field adjacent to Paul Brown Stadium and basically gave rookie William Jackson a reprieve from season-ending injured reserve.

Jackson, the first-round pick who tore his pectoral muscle Monday, undergoes surgery to re-attach it but Lewis said there's a chance he could return late in the season. Jackson would have to spend the first eight weeks on injured reserve, but unlike the past few years they can wait to designate one player to return from IR after the eight weeks are up.

But since Jackson isn't going to play much from scrimmage this year anyway, the more immediate injury of concern is No. 1 slot corner Darqueze Dennard's sprained ankle. The two injuries sent the Bengals back on a Leon Hall re-signing excursion after their talks of two months ago stalled.

Lewis had been talking to Hall right up until he signed with the Giants Thursday morning. It's believed the Giants were more attractive for Hall at this point because he'll be New York's starting nickel corner in the slot, where in Cincinnati he'd be playing behind Dennard.

Lewis said the one game Dennard played in place of Hall in the slot last season "we didn't miss a beat," and he expects it to continue. He said Dennard, suffering an injury in each of his three training camps, could return as soon as next week.

For the time being it ends one of the best Bengals career at corner ever that began with Cincinnati took Hall in the first round in 2007.

"We wish the best for Leon and has family," Lewis said.

Lewis also said that Josh Shaw, backing up safeties George Iloka and Shawn Williams, is now going to play more corner. Shaw, a fourth-round pick in 2015, played some slot late last season.

The injuries also meant a reprieve for free-agent rookie cornerback Corey Tindal of Marshal, cut two weeks ago in the wake of a bizarre incident in West Virginia. Tindal was in a poker game and along with someone else got robbed at gun point in a robbery that claimed $4,000 in cash and cell phones.

On Thursday, Tindal was grateful for Tuesday's phone call and came up with the line of the day, a Beverly Hills Cop reference with,  "I won't fall for the banana in the tail pipe anymore."

He also admitted, "I made a decision to be in that situation, so I take full responsibility of the actions that happened. With bad decisions come consequences."

His re-signing might have been even more bizarre. The Bengals reached him just as he was getting out of his car Tuesday to work out for the Colts. He immediately turned around and drove back to Cincinnati.

"I wasn't going to go work out and maybe pull something," Tindal said. "Then I would have lost two jobs."

TEZ BACK: Linebacker Vontaze Burfict was cleared Thursday to return to practice, but as Lewis said before camp, he won't be working much here.

"This is not an eye-opening day for Vontaze Burfict," Lewis said. 

Cincinnati Bengals host Training Camp at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields 8/2/2016

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