Bengals head coach Zac Taylor told undrafted free agent rookie wide receiver Damion Willis to line up as the starting X wide receiver in Sunday’s walk-through. What he didn’t tell him was that meant he was starting the Sept. 8 regular-season opener in Seattle.
“I’m just finding out,” said a dazed Willis before practice. “I’m going to wait to Saturday to celebrate.”
Saturday is the final cut to 53 players, but he doesn’t have to worry, although he will even though he’s not playing in Thursday night’s pre-season finale (7-Cincinnati’s Local 12) against the Colts at Paul Brown Stadium.
That wasn’t the rookie head coach’s only surprise. Taylor also announced that rookie Michael Jordan gets the start at left guard and Trey Hopkins gets the nod at center over incumbent Billy Price with Price the first man off the bench at guard or center.
Also Sunday, wide receiver John Ross planned to practice for the first time this preseason in the hopes that his hamstring injury allows him to play in the opener. Asked if he can get back in two weeks without playing in a game, Ross said, “We’ll find out. I’ve never missed this much camp.”
Wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell said Ross took eight to ten snaps Sunday at full speed and looked good and knew where to go.
_Cornerback KeiVarae Russell, who has missed of camp with an unknown ailment, was back on the field Sunday. Back-up quarterback Jeff Driskel (hamstring) and wide receiver Auden Tate (knee) were not.
_Guard Christian Westerman, who left the team for personal reasons and missed two games, returned to the field Sunday but didn't participate. He said reports saying he was considering retiring were overblown: "I'm just happy to be back with the guys."
- Price, the club’s first-round pick last year who started ten games center, admitted when he was told Friday he wasn’t starting “it’s the day that you thought would never happen, but it happened.”
But Price, who missed the first couple of days of training camp with a sore foot, was philosophical about the coaches going with Hopkins.
“It’s going to continue to help develop this team and the offensive line. You can sit there and sulk and be upset with yourself and go “get a bottle of whiskey and put yourself in a dark, dirty hole,” or you can get out here and practice and try to get better at the things you need to improve on get fully healthy and help this team,” Price said. "Because that’s what this is about. It’s about helping this team in whatever direction, whatever way, whatever facet I can.”
Price, who played some guard last Thursday night, admitted he had some trouble dealing with the constant rotations.
“It was better to get a little clarity,” Price said.
“I will say that. I had mentioned to Coach Taylor and Coach (offensive line coach Jim) Turner both the last three weeks being in different spots, different lineups, different positions -- left guard, right guard, center, center this week, center with the 2s — to just get a little better clarity on that. There is a mental aspect to the game and to understand where you are at, it's easier for you to progress and focus on certain things to get better at or if you are playing on edge or you’re constantly worried about messing something up, it's just going to be better for me.”