Updated: 8:40 p.m.
Ho-hum. Ten days until the Bengals make final cuts and for the fourth straight year running back Cedric Peerman is on the bubble and ...
Not so fast. For three straight years Peerman has made it, been the quarterback of the special teams as the personal punt protector, and last year helped turn around two games that ended up wins when he made the correct call and ensuing runs on fake punts.
So maybe, just maybe, some other guys are on the bubble as the Bengals try to decide which two running backs to keep among Peerman, Daniel Herron and rookie Rex Burkhead. It's a heated scrum for a team leading the NFL preseason in total offense and rushing.
The devoutly spiritual Peerman, a licensed minister in his home state of Virginia, is as equally committed to the fundamentals of the kicking game.
"That's the thing that's been able to let me stick around. Hopefully I can continue to do that," said Peerman, who knows exactly what the bubble feels like. "Nothing unusual."
Let Peerman tell us what he has to do standing in front of punter Kevin Huber calling signals.
"You have to communicate with the guys up front to make sure they're doing the right things so we don't have a catastrophe," he said.
With special teams standout Brian Leonard moving on in free agency, Peerman has stepped up from backup to starting left guard, a key spot on punt return because that's the player that makes the checks and sets up the returns.
To give you an idea how important the spots are, Burkhead is working at both those spots. He only returned at Nebraska after a few games he was the personal protector as a freshman, but Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons put Burkhead there when he arrived and Simmons's faith was validated when he gave his rookies a written test before the trip to Atlanta for the preseason opener two weeks ago because they were struggling with their assignments.
Simmons instructed them to write out their assignments for every position they play on special teams for every play in return and coverage. Burkhead's exam was five pages deep.
"In every detail. That showed me how detailed he is. That showed me he has the intelligence and desire to want to be that guy," Simmons said. "I had a feeling he could do that before. He's a guy that plays with intelligence and aggressiveness. But they have to see it live and experience it if they haven't seen it before, so there'll be some bumps in the road."
Herron has also impressed Simmons, dating back to last season's rookie year when he had a hand in two blocked punts within four days of each other in his first two games once he came off the practice squad in December.
Simmons said Herron played the opponent's best punt rusher during the week and he got so good at it that he earned a spot when he was promoted in the wake of wide receiver Mohamed Sanu's trip to season-ending injured reserve.
Experience means something. Burkhead has been going to Peerman often.
"He's got some experience under his belt seeing all of that, so I'm just learning from him and seeing what he does in certain situations helps me out," Burkhead said. "I'm always asking him after a play happens what did you see here, why did you call this, why did you anticipate that. He's definitely a guy I look up to."
So is Peerman really on the bubble? He'll go at it like he is. In the preseason finale in 2010, he broke a 92-yard run against the Colts. In the 2011 finale against Indy he had a big second effort run for 13 yards on third-and-five in the red zone, and in the 2012 finale against the Colts he ripped off 27 yards on six carries.
DUNLAP EASING BACK: A frustrated Carlos Dunlap on Tuesday finally talked about the concussion that idled him for three weeks until he took the field Monday and Tuesday for limited work. He called it "a mind game" as he has watched his fellow defensive linemen work while he couldn't in the wake of signing his $40 million extension.
"That's the part that's frustrating because physically I feel I can still run, lift weights, whatever," said Dunlap, who got injured when he took on a run play. "But it's not in my best interests right now. It's like a mind game now."
Dunlap is crossing his fingers to play Saturday (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Dallas, but he says head coach Marvin Lewis's rule is players have to be full go for two practices.
"When (the symptoms) first started they were getting pretty bad; they're a lot better now," Dunlap said. "That's why I'm able to go back out there and start doing physical exertion and see how it feels.
"With a concussion you can't do any physical activity until the symptoms are down."
Dunlap knows because his only other concussion came here in his rookie preseason. But there is no fear. Only that frustration.
"I'm not worried about it. It's frustrating. It is what it is. There's nothing you can do about it. Physically you're healthy, but mentally you're not," Dunlap said.
"It's one of those things, you have to wait. There's no medicine you can take for it. It's something that that you have to deal with. The NFL is being very strict right now, which they should because of the studies of what they can cause long term."
If there's anyone who knows about having fresh legs going into the regular season, it's Dunlap. As a rookie he also had a knee strain in training camp and missed the first two regular-season games. Two years ago he missed every preseason game with another knee strain and he missed them all last year after he hurt his knee on the preseason's first series.
"When I get back out there they'll be fresh and ready to roll. I'm still mentally in the game, it's just that physically I'm not out there," he said. "My legs will be fine. I'll be able to run past people. I might not be able to blow them up, but I'm going to run past those guys.
"Practice is enough to get ready for the game. You don't really need the preseason games, but it is part of the process. It's like a chance for us to get in sync so when we get the season rolling. But I feel like we do that every day in practice, too. It's just part of the process."
MORE REX: Burkhead says the biggest adjustment for him has been learning the playbook and adjusting to the scheme. But the sixth-rounder certainly doesn't look out of place with 5.5 yards per on 15 carries.
"I'm just making sure I'm covering all the little details, making sure I'm doing my job and making plays," he said. "When you get your opportunities, make sure you go out there and make the most of it."
Saturday is a homecoming for the Dallas Morning News's All-Area Offensive Player of the Year at Plano High School. Burkhead is not sure how many tickets he needs to get, but he says it sounds like plenty of his friends and family are getting them on their own. Burkhead has played in Jerry World twice as a member of the Cornhuskers.
He says you've got to watch yourself and not the looming scoreboard hanging down from the ceiling.
"It's crazy. When the defense is out on the field and you're sitting on the bench or on the sideline, you catch yourself just watching it up on the Jumbotron because it's that clear and in HD," he said. "As long as you're focusing in on the field and making sure you're doing your job, you can block everything else out."
BOOM TOWN: Herron, last year's sixth-round pick, is also lighting it up with 111 yards, tied for the NFL rushing lead with New England's LeGarrette Blount and a yard ahead of Blount's teammate Stevan Ridley.
Two tough years enduring hardships has paid off for Herron. He missed the first six games his senior season at Ohio State in the NCAA mess stemming from improper benefits and he didn't get active as a rookie until December last year.
"Any time you go through situations it makes you a stronger person and player," Herron said. "I went through adversity at Ohio State and things didn't go as planned at the beginning of last year but I'm a better and stronger player. I want to go out and work harder."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Cornerback Adam Jones, SAM backer James Harrison, and left end Robert Geathers sat out Tuesday with unknown ailments. So did rookie linebacker Sean Porter with his torn labrum. The club still has yet to make a call if season-ending surgery is necessary.
» Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis indicated Tuesday that running back Bernard Scott (knee), fullback Chris Pressley (knee) and quarterback Zac Robinson (elbow) are probably going to stay on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) when the season starts. That takes them out of practice for the first six weeks of the regular season.
"There's not upside to do anything different; it's not fair to them or the team," Lewis said.
» Lewis said wide receiver A.J. Green and left tackle Andrew Whitworth "have a chance" to play their first games of the year Saturday. » Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (ankle) looks more and more like he's headed to injured reserve-recall on the Aug. 31 cutdown day. Lewis said he'll be in either a cast or boot for the next couple of weeks.