TAMPA, Fla. _ Two Bengals veterans didn't play in Saturday's preseason opener against the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium, but they may have had the biggest impact on the first trip of the year.
With Bengals head coach Zac Taylor needing to cut three players to get down to 85 by Tuesday, he felt Friday night's team meeting was the perfect spot to deliver an age-old message. He called on center Trey Hopkins and safety Ricardo Allen to stand before their teammates and recount their journeys from the practice squad to established veterans.
They had a lot to talk about to prove Taylor's point the only thing that matters is how you play.
The Bengals arrived at Raymond James Stadium for their first preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hopkins, on track to start next month's regular-season opener as he continues to work back from ACL surgery, suffered an equally devastating injury in the third preseason game of his rookie year in 2014 when he badly broke his leg. An undrafted free agent out of Texas, Hopkins spent the next two seasons on the practice squad before becoming the Opening Day right guard in 2017 and has 52 starts since. He started at three spots before winning the center job and earning a three-year contract extension late in the 2018 season.
After signing a one-year deal with the Bengals back in March, Allen is new, but his story isn't. A fifth-round pick in 2014 wasn't good enough to land him on the Falcons roster and he spent his rookie year on the practice squad, the same year Hopkins was on IR.
Then the next season Allen switched from cornerback to safety and made his first NFL start in the opener and when he intercepted Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford with 1:17 left to clinch it. He was off and became a captain for the Falcons Super Bowl team on the way to earning a second contact.
Allen suffered a fairly significant hamstring pull last week, but it's expected he'll be back by the third preseason game.
INJURY UPDATE: Hopkins and quarterback Joe Burrow were healthy scratches. Running back Trayveon Williams (hamstring) got hurt during Thursday's practice and didn't make the trip. They hope he can be back for Friday's game in Washington. Same with right tackle Fred Johnson (quad), who returned to individuals a few days ago. So rookie running back Chris Evans and first-year back Jacques Patrick are going to get plenty of work because Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine are barely going to get on the wet field. Taylor also figured to get his starting tackles out of there, so with Johnson out, Isaiah Prince and rookie Gunnar Vogel should see plenty of snaps because rookie D'Ante Smith is staying at left guard on the second team.
On defense, backup edge Khalid Kareem didn't make the trip with the shoulder issue he's been dealing with since last season and the hope is he can play in the final two preseason games. Also out are backup cornerback Eli Apple and Donnie Lewis Jr., with soft tissue injuries that could be cleared up as soon as the next game.
Defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi has to wait to make his Bengals debut. He returned to practice this past Tuesday after missing the first two weeks of training camp with a hamstring injury and may be back in there Friday in Washington. Veteran Josh Tupou played well enough in his absence to get the start.
BURROW WORKS: Burrow did get a chance to sample the Raymond James wet turf, but only under the watchful eye of Bengals rehab guru Nick Cosgray during early pregame warmups. Although Burrow didn't play, Cosgray had Burrow undergoing a rigorous series of exercises that included him being dragged while Burrow ran attached to a harness.
SIMMONS RETURNS SUNDAY: Special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons returns to the Bengals Sunday after attending his father's funeral service in Kansas. Gary Simmons, 71, ran the family farm with the same harvest time work ethic he gave his son and helped the younger Simmons become one of the NFL's top assistant coaches. In his place, Colt Anderson, Simmons' assistant, and defensive quality control coach Louie Cioffi are going to run the kicking game against the Bucs.