The Bengals got hit by injuries this season, but so did everyone in a year the Dallas Morning News says the NFL lost a record 1,600 games by starters. The Bengals weren't even hit the hardest.
Rick "Goose" Gosselin, who published his annual survey this week, says Cincinnati lost the 10th-fewest games by starters with 40, headed by the combined 18 of two-time Pro Bowl tackle Geno Atkins and secondary service leader Leon Hall. Hall, a first-round pick in 2007, has played in 92 Bengals games and is fifth on the club's all-time interceptions list with 23, two shy of Lemar Parrish for fourth place.
Injuries certainly aren't a barometer for wins and losses. The teams that lost the second most (Indianapolis with 83) and third most (New England with 74) are playing each other Saturday night in an AFC Divisional game. The Giants with the most games lost with 91 didn't make the playoffs, but neither did the Jets and they finished with a league-low 20 games lost with the Giants 7-9 record.
But what the survey can miss is the loss of key role players not listed among the starters. For instance, defensive regulars Robert Geathers (14 games), Emmanuel Lamur (16) and Taylor Mays (eight) would have played almost as much and maybe more than the starters and missed a combined 38 games. If they were counted with the starters, 78 games would have been the third-most lost. And rookie linebacker Sean Porter, a fourth-round pick put on season-ending injured reserve in training camp, may not have started but he probably would have played in most every game.
Pittsburgh lost the most games by starters in the AFC North with 52, while the Browns (35) and Ravens (38) were right there with the Bengals.
The biggest questions for the Bengals are going to be if Atkins (ACL) and Hall (Achilles) can make it back in time for some semblance of a training camp, or if they'll have to start the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and miss the first six weeks of the season.
Since he tore his knee on Halloween, Atkins's timetable is going to be a tight fit. Hall, who ripped his Achilles on Oct. 20, tore his other one on Nov. 13, 2011. That is when the Bengals projected he would start the 2012 season on the PUP list, but he defied the odds and was on the field for the opening of training camp on his way to starting 14 of 16 games, including the Sept. 10 opener. The Bengals are hoping lightning strikes twice.
The other players on injured reserve, highlighted by Geathers (elbow), Lamur (shoulder), Porter (shoulder), punter Kevin Huber (jaw) and defensive tackle Devon Still (back), should be back at least in time for training camp or before.
COACHING UPDATE: The buzz out of Washington continues to be that Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden is the top choice to be the capital city's head coach, but he apparently left Wednesday's interview without an announcement amid reports there is a potential "tug-of-war" for his services with the Titans, as reported by The Washington Post via Pro Football Talk.
Gruden met with Tennessee on Tuesday and is reportedly meeting with the Vikings on Thursday. Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer met with the Vikings in Cincinnati on Wednesday before heading to Nashville on Thursday to meet with the Titans. Tennessee is reportedly going slow and appears to have other interviews lined up.