Updated: 8:10 p.m.
Jordan Shipley said don't be surprised if he practiced in Monday's workout in full pads on the grass fields across the street from Paul Brown Stadium.
Rehabbing from an ACL tear, it would be Shipley's first time in pads since he and Tim Tebow both ran pass routes before Shipley got hurt in the Sept. 18 loss in Denver.
And even though he didn't put on the full regalia and wore only the light shoulder pads, or "shells," Shipley did get in his first training camp action in front of a crowd of about 1,100. He was kept out of team drills, but he did work in individuals and seven-on-seven, as well as some one-on-ones after practice. He passed his physical Monday and expects to be put in team drills in Tuesday's 3 p.m. practice on the grass fields.
So it now means that at least two pretty good receivers are going to get cut if everybody stays healthy because once a player steps on the field in preseason to practice, he can't be put on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) at the start of the season.
Shipley is the most experienced slot receiver at a position that is jammed with Andrew Hawkins, Ryan Whalen and third-rounder Mohammed Sanu. Gunning for the spot opposite Pro Bowler A.J. Green are Armon Binns, Brandon Tate and fifth-rounder Marvin Jones, among others. But there are your top eight.
Shipley is the oldest guy in the receiver room at 26 and seven months and has the most career catches by anyone not named Green. Name the only current active receiver that played with Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens in 2010 and you get Shipley.
"This is the best group of receivers we've had. We've got a lot guys that can play," Shipley said.
Shipley worked with cornerbacks Terence Newman and Adam Jones on releases after practice and said it felt good. He figures if he can do that, he'll be OK.
"The routes are pretty easy because you've got the muscle memory," he said. "But the stuff where you have to improv, that's the last thing you work on."
Shipley says this tear is worse than the one he had in college, which was just the ACL. This time it was the MCL, too, along with other issues, and there was more scar tissue so he had to wait longer for the surgery.
"But once I get out there, I don't think about it," Shipley said. "I'm ready to go now."
He returns to a position group much different than what he left in 2011. Once at a loss for slot guys as Andre Caldwell struggled with injuries, they are all over the place now.
"Thank God I don't have to make that decision. I'm just going to keep my head down, keep working and try to keep this thing going," Hawkins said.
"This thing" was one of the best feel-good stories of last year when the 5-7 Hawkins came out of the CFL and off the practice squad when Shipley got hurt and contributed 23 catches and played gunner on punts and played on kickoffs for coverage teams that finished in the top 10 in the NFL.
It's going to be quite a roster tussle with a proven guy like Shipley. Hawkins's value has been obvious right out of the gate in the first three practices of camp. Running as the first-team slot, he's made a bunch of catches in the middle in showing nice chemistry with quarterback Andy Dalton. Plus, he's catching punts and kicks with special teams coach Darrin Simmons casting an eye to dusting him off and using him for the first time there.
When he dropped back to return a punt in last year's preseason, it was the first time Hawkins had done it since Johnstown High School in Pennsylvania. He took it 32 yards, but the Bengals were set with Brandon Tate during the regular season. Now Simmons wants to see if Hawkins's mega-quickness can be used other than on cover teams.
"Catching punts is the same thing for everything else; it's concentration," Hawkins said. "They have to have trust in me and I have to have confidence in my abilities. Before that game in the preseason, Darrin worked with me every day before and after practice and had me prepared and that's what we're doing now."
Hawkins also gives offensive coordinator Jay Gruden a plethora of options with his quickness. Several times Gruden lined up Hawkins in the backfield last year to get matchups he wanted, i.e. Hawkins's 25-yard catch working against Steelers Pro Bowl safety Troy Polamalu.
"It's not so much me as much as Jay being so creative and knowing what guys do best," Hawkins said. "We just give him 100 percent trust. He draws it up, it's amazing, and it works to a tee."
OKLAHOMA, WHERE…: As usual on the first day of pads, the Oklahoma Drill came out early Monday and head coach Marvin Lewis exulted by bellowing some his special matchups: "Zeitler and Maualuga!" pitting his rookie right guard against his middle linebacker as the defender tried to fight through the blocker to tackle the back.
"Those are two guys we're counting on to be strong to be strong in the middle," Lewis said. "Rey realized what I was doing. We want the offensive line to see what Zeitler can do.
"It's fun. It's the first chance they get to run into each other. They've had zero contact ... who's going to be tougher than the other guy? That's the fun part of it."
Right tackle Andre Smith absolutely buried left end Carlos Dunlap on his back.
"Nice technique by Andre," Lewis said, "Not as good by Carlos because when he had to release, Andre's athletic enough to stay attached to him."
Center Kyle Cook and Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins teed off. It looked like Cook held his own against the strongest man on the team. As Lewis said, "It's an offensive drill."
Lewis liked how the rookies showed up. "You see why they're here," he said. "The two receivers (Marvin Jones and Sanu) and (safety George) Iloka (were physical). It was good to see."
It looked like Zeitler and Maualuga reached some kind of stalemate as the back slithered by, but Zeitler wasn't sure and said he was about to watch it on his iPad in a few minutes.
"I don't know. They said I stayed low," Zeitler said. "I don't consider (neutralizing) a win. To me to win those you have to control them and drive those 20 yards downfield."
Well, that's not going to happen in the NFL, but Zeitler felt like he responded to the instructions. When Lewis called out him and Maualuga, Zeitler wasn't sure if they wanted him to walk up the mike backer or "pound up," and Zeitler pounded up head-to-head.
Yes, even Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green took a snap and mixed it up, but that's about all.
"No. 18 had a nice stalemate," Lewis said with a smile. "Once he got his one in, I could breathe a sigh of relief. You're good for the rest of camp."
CORNERS RETURN: After the Bengals were devastated Sunday with nagging injuries, they got everybody back in some way or another except for rookie Shaun Prater as he battles some knee issues and rookie Dre Kirkpatrick (leg) continues to work on his upper body and conditioning on the side.
But Nate Clements returned to the field for the first time since the '11 finale on Monday. He didn't do team stuff and he's not sure how slowly the club is going to bring him back or if he'll play in Saturday's intrasquad scrimmage.
But after missing all of spring ball with a pulled abdominal muscle, he felt happy just to be running around in 7-on-7 and individuals. He just missed making a pick off of cornerback Leon Hall's tip.
"I felt really good getting in and out of my breaks," Clements said. "I've been going pretty hard the last couple of days in shoulder pads on the other field just to really work it. It felt great."
Adam Jones, who had a calf bruise, and Terence Newman, who was sore, worked for some segments of the practice but not all. Leon Hall, who rested his Achilles on Sunday, worked Monday.
The club's take on the injuries in the last 24 hours seems to have softened and the Bengals think they can get by without signing any more corners for the moment.
BURFICT LEARNING: One of those rookies Lewis liked was middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict. His set against rookie tight end Bryce Davis was better than his match against massive 6-9 veteran right tackle Dennis Roland, but his most impressive thing Monday came during a play in 11-on-11.
He stayed too long on the collar of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis trying to yank him to the turf on a run. And as The Law Firm went down, center Kyle Cook tried to get Burfict off The Firm with a push. Burfict started to make a move on Cook, but stopped as other players got in the way and they tapped each other on their helmets as they went back to their huddles and left tackle Andrew Whitworth put an arm around Burfict.
Burfict had composure problems at Arizona State, but on Monday he came through on his vow that he's a smarter player.
And earlier in the practice he got his hand on a ball that turned into a tipped interception for safety Jeromy Miles.
CATCHERS: After the first four practices, quarterback Andy Dalton's most reliable hands people at receiver besides Green seem to be Hawkins, Whalen and Sanu. For the second time this camp, Marvin Jones got great separation but seemed to misjudge Dalton's bomb and had it go right through his hands over the shoulder.
DALTON TAKE: Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton came into training camp trying to improve his deep accuracy and after the first three practices there hasn't been much to write home about. Not that Dalton has been bad, but the offense hasn't done all that much of it.
"It's early. We've thrown just a couple of 'gos' and haven't had the best looks against them, but we're still trying to take those shots," Dalton said before Monday's practice. "We haven't taken that many in the team drills. I know we've done some with just the receivers. It will come. We're just installing and making sure what we're doing."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Offensive line coach Paul Alexander says Clint Boling has had a good camp backing up center and both guards after a solid offseason.
"Clint's worked hard on his flexibility. He's made tremendous physical improvements," said Alexander, who wanted him to get stronger. "Backup center is still a question."
Alexander has Boling and rookie right guard Kevin Zeitler working behind Kyle Cook, as is Notre Dame free-agent rookie Trevor Robinson in his bid to make the practice squad.
» Leave it to Albert Breer of NFL Network. He comes in for one day and deciphers the small "DNO" lettering on the back of some practice T-shirts. One player told Breer it stands for Destination: New Orleans. Marvin Lewis code for going to the Super Bowl.
» Left guard Travelle Wharton showed his nine-year NFL toughness Sunday night when he got his ankle rolled early in practice, but he only missed the rest of that period. Otis Hudson, who, like Boling, is backing up both guards, went in for Wharton.
» The North ticket window at PBS is open from 10-12 a.m. for passes to Tuesday's practice from 3-5 p.m. on the grass fields. The team is off Wednesday before the unlimited seating inside PBS at the 6-8 Thursday night practice.