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Ross cautiously returns step-by-step


John Ross went back on the field Monday.

John Ross, last seen when he fumbled his first NFL touch back on Sept. 14, returned to practice Monday as the Bengals began preparations for Sunday's game (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Pittsburgh and it doesn't sound like he'll be ready for the Steelers.

But this is what he does know after he practiced in limited fashion for the first time in more than a month:

_He feels good, he's satisfied there's nothing significantly wrong with the knee he injured in the Aug. 31 pre-season finale, and he's been told it's not related to the ACL he tore in the same knee during college.

"It just feels good," said a relieved Ross after practice. "You never want to be sidelined, especially when it's something you've never experienced before. It's definitely good to finally be back out there.

"It felt really good. I got out there and had a chance to run. I think the bye week helped a lot. Not just for me, but for everyone. I got a chance to really recover and heal up well and it felt good today."

_The team has yet to unleash him since he said he didn't work in 11-on-11 on Monday as he seeks to regain the world-class speed he used to set the NFL scouting combine record in the 40-yard dash.

"I'm working on it," Ross said. "I never know what full go is. I feel fast. I always feel fast.  Got to continue to progress. I always want to be faster.

"We're getting there. I think I'll never feel 100 percent, but I feel like I'm in a good position."

And Ross means no football player is ever 100 percent once the season gets going.

"My coach told me that last year, 'If you're feeling 100 percent then you aren't playing the game right.' I just feel like no matter what I do I'm always going to be dinged up," Ross said. "Never going to feel 100 percent, but as far as what I'm going through I'm definitely feeling really good."

 _Ross' only NFL game turned out to be the last outing for former offensive coordinator Ken Zampese, but he's comfortable under successor Bill Lazor because the system and wide receivers coach James Urban are the same.

"What's great about Coach Lazor is that it's the same language and he simplifies it for everyone," Ross said. "It's nothing foreign to me, like when I go out there and I'm just in the back listening to the call, and the coaches are relaying the call, I understand the plays. Coach Urban does a great job of teaching them. So it's nothing foreign or anything. It's fairly easy."

Just don't ask Ross what is specifically wrong with the knee.

"I'm not a doctor. I'm still waiting," said Ross, who doesn't think it is anything that has to be handled after the season. "It's nothing bad. That's all I really care about … It's being handled now. They're going to keep an eye on me, and they're doing a great job. I'm just going to continue working through it. That's really all I can do at this point."

Ross believes he tried to come back too soon and do too much after the initial injury on Aug. 31

"I just think I was pushing it. That's probably a lot on my end not communicating," he said. "I just wanted to get out there to try to prove myself. It's a young mentality. Now I'm in a better state of mind and definitely treating it better as far as what I should be doing as opposed to what I think they want."

Ross sounds comfortable with the notion the Bengals are easing him back.

"I've always kind of felt pretty good, but I think it's smart to not rush back into things, especially being in the NFL. It's a long season," he said. "In college you rush back, it's a shorter season. I've always kind of been feeling pretty good, but definitely wanted to make sure I was in a better position to where I can get out there and do more than what my leg was letting me do."

The Bengals re-assembled after the bye week with some still dinged from the win over Buffalo. Starting cornerback Adam Jones (hip/back) didn't work and neither did full back Ryan Hewitt (knee), slot receiver Tyler Boyd (knee), and back-up safety Derron Smith (ankle).

With Boyd out and Ross just starting to get back into the swing, that may mean another rookie wide receiver, fourth-rounder Josh Malone, is poised to be activated for the first time in his career.

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