A suddenly soon-to-be 28-year-old A.J. Green is leading the receivers' room.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's report that Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert going to miss three months with "minimal surgery," appears to put his availability for the Sept. 11 opener against the Jets in doubt.
That timeline would sideline Eifert until the last week of August. He originally injured the ankle in the last quarter of the Jan. 31 Pro Bowl in Honolulu. Eifert had an MRI two days after the injury in Cincinnati and last month when he reported for the off-season program he said the ankle felt like it was coming along. But apparently it didn't come all the way back . . .
The tight end contingent was quite thin with Ryan Hewitt on the sidelines during Tuesday's first of nine voluntary practices known as OTAs, but it didn't look like he had anything significantly wrong with him. Same with WILL backer Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who participated in early drills but not seven-on-seven or 11-on-11. Kirkpatrick is recovering from shoulder surgery, as is cornerback Darqueze Dennard, who isn't expected to work at all this spring.
Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, the projected starter to replace Andre Smith, was on the sidelines. It's not believed he has an issue threating training camp as Eric Winston and Jake Fisher worked in his place.
Also not on the field for unknown reasons was middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. Which meant veteran Vincent Rey and rookie Nick Vigil were getting looks inside. Marquis Flower and Karlos Dansby were on the outside of Rey.
The Bengals were hoping wide receiver James Wright would be ready Tuesday after his promising rookie year of 2014 was cut short by the micro fracture knee surgery that wiped out his 2015 season. He looked good, but he was on the rehab field with rookie running back DyShawn Mobley. . . .
Andy Dalton, showing no ill effects of his broken thumb, and A.J. Green, showing no ill effects of not playing since he put the Bengals ahead with 1:50 left in the Wild Wild Card Game more than four months ago, were needles- and-pins sharp Tuesday. Dalton hooked up with Green for two smooth TD bombs, one over Pro Bowl cornerback Adam Jones, and after practice Green said it's time for him to lead the bevy of young wide receivers. After Green and free-agent pickup Brandon LaFell, there are three NFL catches from last season among the rest of the wide outs.
"My job is to get them ready," Green said. "Andy and I have been here long enough that this offense goes as we go. We don't need coaches or anybody to push us. We know the offense runs through us." . ..
Just like last year on the first day of OTAs Tuesday, Green beat Adam Jones deep but since the Bengals went 12-4 and he went to the Pro Bowl, Jones didn't seem to mind.
"That's a good thing," he said. "I'm superstitious."
But Jones wants the Bengals to have a better record this year.
"I want a bye," Jones said. "It's got to the point where we need a . . . bye. Period. Point blank. Let's do whatever we have to do win the (division) and be one of the two teams to get the bye."
Jones is still aching over last year's loss of a bye in the overtime loss in Denver Week 16 without quarterback Andy Dalton and his broken thumb.
"A snap here , a snap there from having the .. . bye. Then you go back and look at it again we might have had Andy back if we had the bye," he said. "I think we can be way better than last year . . . I don't know about anybody else in here. Week (18) get a week off, it sure is nice." . . .
Jones loved the way the young receivers looked, particularly the rookies, second-rounder Tyler Boyd, sixth-rounder Cody Core and free agent Alonzo Russell.
"I like (Russell). He's tall and sneaky fast. I found that out today," Jones said. (Boyd) is like a Cadillac. He's got a nice stride on him and he's smooth as hell. It doesn't look like he's running fast, but he's moving. I was very impressed by (sophomore Mario Alford) today. He played pretty fast . . . I love (Core). The tall kid? . . . I didn't think (he) was that fast, but go out there and run with his tall butt, he's got a nice little second gear." . . .
Count it as a good first day for the first-round pick. Or, as cornerback William Jackson called it, "an OK day."
As advertised, Jackson, who led the nation in pass breakups for the University of Houston, got his hands on at least three balls Tuesday. And one he should have picked off. When the come-back route bounced off his hands, wide receiver Jake Kumerow caught it instead.
"Ahhh,' Jackson said, shaking his head. "That was a freak play. He must have been praying for that one because I don't know how I didn't catch that one. I should have caught it. I read the route and jumped it and I should have made it."
But he got the seal of approval from Adam Jones.
"The kid is quick as hell. He just has to work on the little stuff," Jones said. "It will be my job to help him. Me and the coaches. I think he can be really good."
Jackson said he has to learn that he can't bait NFL quarterbacks like he did in college. So there is Jones' first lesson.
"We'll have that talk," Jones said. "There's no baiting in this league. Things that look good in practice won't look the same in the game."
On Tuesday, Jackson learned just how vets rule. He never got a chance to line up against Green in one-on-ones. Jones took that chore.
"Pacman is competitive," Jackson said. "That's who he wanted the whole time, so I have to respect the veterans."
In a continuation from rookie minicamp, Jackson and Boyd went at it and on Tuesday Jackson got his hand out at the last instant to knock a bomb away from Boyd. . .