Update: Dalton gets day off as Dunlap, Johnson return; Weighty talk; Reading zone


Daniel Herron

Updated: 7:50 p.m.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said this was going to be the week he got a lot of his injured players back and that was certainly the case on the defensive line as the club warmed up for practice Thursday afternoon before 6,800 fans at Springboro High School on the outskirts of Dayton, Ohio.

But he gave quarterback Andy Dalton the day off as Josh Johnson worked with the first group. Dalton, who had his ankle taped on the outside in Saturday night's game after he became entangled with left tackle Anthony Collins, was suited up and did throw routes against air. On Saturday he returned after he got taped and threw a two-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mohamed Sanu.

After practice Lewis said Dalton was fine and Dalton simply shrugged.

"They gave me a llittle rest I guess," said Dalton, who indicated his ankle is OK. "It's all right. I still did stuff, I just didn't do team today."

Left end Carlos Dunlap (concussion) and tackle Brandon Thompson (knee), shelved since the early days of training camp, were in the uniform of the day with helmets and shorts. As was right end Michael Johnson, who hadn't worked in the 11 days since the opener. Robert Geathers, the backup left end, appeared to be getting a veteran's day off.

Dunlap said he was limited and while Johnson wouldn't reveal what put him on the sidelines, he looked full go as he worked in 11-on-11.

He knows what Saturday night's third preseason game in Dallas (8 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) means in the grand scheme for the starters.

"That's when you play the most," Johnsonn said.

Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis knows, too. After missing Saturday with a slight tweek, he took a bunch of snaps in team session. Same with wide receiver A.J. Green and left tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Linebacker Vincent Rey (knee) also came back after missing the first two games. Also back was linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring) after missing Saturday night. Guard Otis Hudson, who sprained his ankle almost upon arrival last week, was back on the field. Rookie right tackle Reid Fragel (knee) also worked for the first time since early in camp.

Rookie offensive lineman Tannner Hawkinson (ankle) was doing vigorous movement drills in the end zone during the first half of practice and looks ready to be back soon.

Rookie tight end Tyler Eifert (unknown) and safety George Iloka (wrist) weren't working but were running sprints in the end zone. Eifert didn't appear to have anything major wrong with him. With Eifert on the shelf, tight end Jermaine Gresham was the star of the day with several catches down the middle.

WEIGHTY TALK: Fair to say that the Springboro High School weight room is never going to see the kind of crowd again that wedged in before Monday's practice to hear head coach Marvin Lewis address the Panthers.

He spoke for about five minutes and he didn't change his message. He could have been talking to his Bengals on the first day of training camp as he asked how many were back from last year's 10-0 team.

"About a third of you," he said scanning the raised hands. "You know what? That doesn't matter now does it? The only thing it means is you know what it took to win those 10 games. That's something to build upon. But remember, you don't get to start where you left off. You have to earn that way to build back and be a very good football team."

Lewis did his homework. He knows the Panthers open with Mason, a team he addressed earlier this year.

"In their minds, they have a good football team, right?" he reminded them.

Lewis also had two post-high school messages. One for those that want to keep playing.

"What you put on tape is your calling card; that's what counts," Lewis said. "That's what you are. You control that. You control your effort. You control your energy. You control what you know and how you do it.

"What you do on the football field is what counts. Not what somebody writes about you in the newspaper or says this or says that about you."

And he ended with a message for everyone. Starting with "the guys in the back of the room."

"Take care of the academics," Lewis said. "I've been fortunate enough to be around about eight Hall of Fame players or will be in the Hall of Fame. They've always been the smartest players I've had the opportunity to coach. Great students. They know how to take great notes. They know how to study and they know how to prepare."

READING ZONE: Bengals running back Daniel Herron's 40-yard touchdown run Saturday night caught the Titans defense. Quarterback Josh Johnson's handoff caught the eye.

It came off the trendy zone-read that offensive coordinator Jay Gruden instituted when the Bengals signed Johnson in the offseason. But Gruden says it won't be confined to Johnson, an extremely gifted runner, if he makes the team. He says Andy Dalton isn't exactly a statue.

"Do you know how many yards Andy ran for in college?" Gruden asked.

Upon further review, that number at TCU is 1,611.

"It's certainly not something that we would feature with him," Gruden said. "But you can pick your spots. He can move around a little bit. You've got to  look at something like that when you see the success that guys like RGIII and Cam Newton and Russell Wilson have had with it."

But it was Johnson's cornerback speed that had Gruden toying with it in the spring and this preseason. There are three options in the zone read. He can hand it off, keep it and run, or throw off a play-action if the run isn't there.

"We've got a little something we've been working on," Johnson said.

When Herron saw nothing on the right side, he reversed it left and actually got a nice downfield block from Johnson on the safety at about the 10-yard line. Johnson said he kept on the first zone read earlier (and ran for six yards), but went through his keys on this one and handed it off.

"I was glad (Herron) was able to see it," Johnson said. "I kind of saw the same thing and I was hoping he would cut it back that way and he did. It's an added play for us that puts pressure on the defense."

The block was a bonus.

"That's fun," Johnson said. "You always see these guys battling and blocking for each other and you don't feel like a part of it. But, yeah, it's (natural). That's playing football."

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