The Bengals are hoping they haven't lost $42 million man Trae Waynes for two months with a pectoral injury, although that's what initial reports are saying even as it's also being reported he's getting a second opinion.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor had nothing to say about the injury during Tuesday's Zoom media call, except that they've got a heck of a lot more depth at cornerback this August than they did last August. Guys like Tony McRae and B.W. Webb - even a first-rounder in Darqueze Dennard - played tough and gritty last season. Gamers. But they're also no longer here.
It's believed that Waynes had been working out since he arrived with the veterans two weeks ago and suffered the injury during a routine lift in the Bengals' weight room. But it's not routine what it does to the Bengals' plans, which began with a three-year, $42 million contract back in March that installed Waynes at one starting corner.
Now all eyes turn to a first-year assistant, cornerbacks coach Steve Jackson, because it looks like he'll have to get somebody else ready for the opener to play opposite William Jackson III. They were hoping they wouldn't need the depth so soon, but it looks like they picked a good offseason to beef up the corner.
Not only did they pay Waynes, but they stayed on the market to secure four other veterans, starting with Waynes' former Vikings teammate, Mackensie Alexander, a slot guy known as one of the NFL's best tacklers.
Two of them, the 5-10, 192-pound Alexander and Tennessee's LeShaun Sims, have each played more than 50 games while combining for five in the playoffs. Tony Brown, 6-0, 198 pounds, played his first two years in the league with the Packers during the previous two seasons and one of them ended in the playoffs. Last year, Winston Rose led the Canadian Football League with nine interceptions while winning the Grey Cup.
None of these guys are Waynes, a first-round pick. But throw in Darius Phillips, a third-year player who led the Bengals last season with four interceptions in just 108 snaps, and if any position group could weather such a storm and find somebody for the opener, this may be it.
Jackson, with 25 years in the league as a player and coach, has seen it all. On his last snap in the league he saw his Titans lose the Super Bowl by about 18 inches on the last play. Two years before that in downtown Cincinnati he was on that Tennessee defense victimized by Bengals running back Corey Dillon smashing the NFL's 40-year-old rookie single-game rushing record.
So, no, nobody has this job on Aug. 11, a week before pads and ten days before a scrimmage.
"You can't rule anybody out," Jackson said. "Good group. The best thing about it is these guys we brought in here are from winning teams and they're spreading that around to their teammates."
So that means you can't rule out Alexander maybe playing outside with maybe the 5-10, 190-pound Phillips in the slot. But both Jackson and Taylor sounded like they didn't want to move what they consider to be a very good slot player.
"He's a heck of a nickel," Taylor said of Alexander. "Really solid tackler, really confident, has great pattern recognition, good energy out there on the field."
But if you can't pigeon-hole Alexander, you also can't just look at Phillips as just a slot guy. He started last year's finale in place of the injured Jackson and his two interceptions of Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield came on the outside.
"Very productive. He fits in like all the rest. Good player," Jackson said. "He's got a skill set. He can get his hands on the ball. He's very good at creating turnovers."
Then there's the 6-0, 180-pound Rose, one of the last guys to get into Paul Brown Stadium for a workout in late December before the pandemic shut everything down. He has 14 picks in three CFL seasons and Jackson, who had 13 NFL interceptions in nine seasons as a safety for the Oilers/Titans, says it's a legit stat.
"I don't care if that's in Little League. Fourteen interceptions is pretty good," Jackson said. "All of them have the traits and skills to be successful. That's why they're here."
Jackson was the Titans assistant secondary coach when they drafted the 6-0, 203-pound Sims in the 2016 fifth round out of Southern Utah and when Sims was on the market back in March Jackson gave him the endorsement. With Pro Bowler Adoree Jackson arriving in the first round the next year, there wasn't a lot of playing time going around. But Sims started 11 games in his four seasons in Nashville and even though he didn't take a snap at corner in the run to last year's AFC title game, he played 30 snaps in the kicking game and has a good rep as a specialist.
The word is Sims can press, has great man-to-man size and has good speed when he flips his hips.
"He's long, he's tough," Jackson said. "He's not only got the physical traits, but he's got the intangibles. He's like all these guys. He's out there for the team. When his number is called, he does his job."
For openers, they seem to be all in the mix to get that Opening Day start.
Look for vet defensive tackle Mike Daniels to be signed as early as Wednesday morning after they waived undrafted rookie defensive tackle Tyler Clark Tuesday afternoon.
This move delights those inside Paul Brown Stadium. They view the former Pro Bowler as a perfect backup for Geno Atkins and D.J. Reader, a guy who could really cause some problems getting something like 25-30 snaps a game or so while being a solid presence in line coach Nick Eason's room.
Bengals all-time leading passer Ken Anderson is at it again.
On Thursday from 5-5:30 p.m., he'll start up his virtual Happy Hours again for his Ken Anderson Alliance foundation. This Thursday it is former teammate and NBC-TV powerhouse Cris Collinsworth. On Aug. 27 it is baseball Hall of Famer Johnny Bench and Sept. 10 is fellow 1971 draft pick Archie Manning.
Back in the spring during one of those sessions he let it be known what his happy hour choice had been that day and he ended up with a sponsor for "Keystone With Kenny."
For more information, check out kenandersonalliance.org or his YouTube channel.