Like some of the teams around the NFL, the Bengals have changed up their practice schedule during the week looking for more fuel on Sunday as they try to get the right read on their body GPS.
They've tinkered with the Friday and Saturday schedules so that the club is lathering up more of a sweat the day before a game rather than going through the typical walk-through. It's another step in the evolution that began last season with the Bengals measuring individual players during practice with the wires of a body GPS.
A visual look at the Bengals final 53-man roster.
"There's a theory that's given that high performance athletes should not slow down prior to competition. They should speed up for a shorter period of time," said head coach Marvin Lewis after Thursday's practice. "It's the measurements. You only have so many players. There's not a plethora of guys on the street, so if we can keep the 53 guys we start with as healthy as we can, we've got to figure out a way to do it."
Instead of a full-scale practice, Fridays are now reserved for pit stops in the weight room of the strength and conditioning staff headed up by Chip Morton for what are called recovery and modality periods. They are also on the field for a shorter time that Lewis still calls practice. What was a walk-through on Saturday is now more up-tempo.
"It's new, it's different, it's a good changeup,' said defensive tackle Domata Peko. "We go hard Wednesday and Thursday and it helps us out having a walk-through on Friday going through plays that we think we need to work on. We can go through it Saturday a little bit faster. It gives us a chance to fix stuff on Friday. And we're off our feet more on Friday, when we were basically going all day, and we can come in on Saturday and get moving a little bit. Get the blood flowing. It feels good so far."
The Giants, Eagles, and Packers have also switched up the back end of their schedules. Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy, a Lewis friend from the University of Pittsburgh days, did it last season and Lewis said he spoke with him about it.
"Very positive," said Lewis of the team feedback. "We've been doing it really since the (Aug. 14) Giants game and everyone to a man feels good about doing it and that's a key element."
CAPTAINS CALL: The Bengals voted for captains earlier in the week and there were absolutely no surprises. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth and quarterback Andy Dalton head up the offense, Peko and safety Reggie Nelson man the defense, and linebacker Vincent Rey and running back Cedric Peerman co-captain special teams.
That's about the way it's been drawn up for the last couple of years, except last season, when linebacker Vontaze Burfict got the call with Peko. But with Burfict on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) for the first six weeks of the season, Nelson got the call again. And when Burfict gets back for the Pittsburgh game Nov. 1, he'll easily step back into his role as the leader of the huddle setting the defenses.
Whitworth and Peko are the deans of the place, with Whitworth being here two rounds longer since both arrived in the 2006 draft. Nelson is in his sixth season here, ninth in the league, and is set to make his 68th start as a Bengal. He did injure his groin Wednesday and went limited Thursday.
"It's a blessing to be a team leader," Peko said. "I just have to keep doing my part, always leading by example and staying coachable."
INJURY UPDATE: All the Bengals starters but Nelson went full go at Thursday's practice, the day before the Bengals leave for Sunday's opener (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Oakland.
Left end Carlos Dunlap, who missed Wednesday's practice with an illness, was full go. So was left tackle Andrew Whitworth, out with a back issue Wednesday. Backup cornerbacks Leon Hall (back) and Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) also were full go, the first for Dennard since the Aug. 14 pre-season opener.
Nickel linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring) and backup cornerback Josh Shaw, who injured his groin Thursday, were both limited.
Rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison, who tweaked his knee Wednesday, didn't work Thursday. He was most likely not going to be active Sunday, anyway, and indications are the injury isn't major.
AJ-BENGALS TRY TO CLOSE: The Bengals spent Thursday trying to hammer out a contract extension with Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green before wheels up for Friday's trip to Oakland and Sunday's (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) NFL opener.
The sides have spent the last week trying to finalize the deal before the season starts, Green's last under contract. Indications late Thursday afternoon were there were still numbers being exchanged. According to ProFootballTalk.com, Green is looking for more than the five-year, $70 million neighborhood deals that Julio Jones, Dez Bryant, and Demaryius Thomas have signed this preseason and the key issue is guarantees.