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Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was cleared for training camp Friday.

The Bengals held their first practice of training camp Friday, but they really won't begin to practice until they put on the pads Monday.

So there was a lot of this Friday before 1,350 on the practice fields at Paul Brown Stadium:

Wide receivers coach James Urban had his arm draped around rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd after one of the few plays where the ball hit the ground. Boyd didn't appear to get to the right depth as an Andy Dalton pass sailed over his head.

"Muscle memory," Urban told Boyd.

Or something like that.

"What does it feel like to run that fast for me to run 15 yards and be exactly where the quarterback puts it?" Urban said, breaking it down after practice.

"And for the quarterback, its muscle memory for what it feels like for him to go that far and throw it at the right spot. That's timing. That's why you have training camp. Or else you'd just go play football. That's why when we run routes against air we get so technical.  It's not 15 yards; it's 14 yards (on a particular route). Or 13 instead of 14."

For the first time back on the field in 43 days, the offense looked to be as crisp as it could be after six weeks on the shelf. According to numbers supplied by Bengals radio play-by-play man Dan Hoard, Dalton sifted 14 of 17 throws and backup Andy Dalton went 12 of 17. Both went 7-for-8 in seven-on-seven.

"This is why what Coach Lewis does is so great," Urban said of the head man Marvin Lewis. "We throw the ball so much in the spring and it helps get these guys up and ready. It takes a couple of days … The trainers say for the first three days you just have to get through it."

But then, they weren't exactly going against a Rex Ryan defense on that first day. Not even the Todd Bowles defense they'll see in Jersey to start it all Sept. 11.

Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther shrugged of the first day simplicity. "One front. One coverage." His cornerbacks don't truly get to put their hands on receivers until Monday and the pads.

Urban did what good coaches hate to do and admitted, "It was a good start."  But he also said, "At this (stage), a lot of it is cyclical. Today we'll feel really good and then tomorrow we may not catch a thing. You try to get better every day."

Urban is at the center of camp's big question. The Bengals are trying to find out the two wide receivers that are going to make the roster besides starters A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell and the two draft picks, the second-rounder Boyd and the sixth-rounder Cody Core.

And even though they haven't gone against bump-and-run yet, it's not always easy for the kids. On one route Dalton sent out Boyd and Jake Kumerow against the No. 1 secondary and Dalton had to run because no one got open.

But it sure looks like Kumerow is going to be in the hunt until Cutdown Day after spending his rookie year on the practice squad.

Some other receivers made some nice catches Friday. Michael Bennett stretched out to make a nice diving catch on a deep ball. Core is long and smooth and looks to have supple hands. Brandon Tate (no, he won't go away) caught a nice long ball off a reverse pass from Boyd.

"He's been doing that for years," Urban said of Boyd. "There are certain things in his wheelhouse that he does that you'll get wowed by. The things outside his wheelhouse he has to continue to improve on."

On Friday Kumerow caught everything his way with a handful of grabs in the team stuff. Mostly over the middle, where he leaned once to twist and reach to pluck a ball from oblivion.  But he also made a nifty catch in one-on-ones where he shielded off No. 1 pick William Jackson to track down a long one.

"I felt like guys ran well. Guys were in the right spot," Dalton said. "(Kumerow) competes. That's the big thing. He competes. Usually he's in the right spot. He knows the offense well. He's a bigger body guy that can run."

That's going to be the question. He's got the size (6-4) and hands that dominated Division III at Wisconsin-Whitewater, but can he continually get enough separation when things get physical?

"I love his competitiveness. I love his attitude. I love his work ethic," Urban said. "Can you stack on good days? Everybody has a blip. But how many good days can you be consistent and stack them? It can't be guys you think can help you win."

Which is why the first day doesn't mean much more than a memory. Muscle or otherwise.


Cincinnati Bengals host training camp at Paul Brown Stadium Practice Fields 7/29/2016

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