By The Associated Press
July 23, 2014
CINCINNATI (AP) — The Bengals expect cornerback Leon Hall to be ready for the start of training camp and defensive tackle Geno Atkins to join them for full workouts sometime later, bringing one of the NFL’s top defenses closer to full strength.
Hall and Atkins are two of Cincinnati’s biggest questions heading into camp. Both are starters who mean a lot to a defense that ranked third in the NFL last season.
They’re among 13 players who haven’t been cleared to fully participate in the Bengals’ first practice Thursday. Coach Marvin Lewis expects all of them to be ready for the season opener Sept. 7 at Baltimore.
“Actually, all of our guys are doing well,” Lewis said Tuesday. “We’re fortunate. Our guys are in a good spot.”
Hall tore his right Achilles tendon midway through last season, the second time he’s sustained such an injury. He tore his left Achilles in 2011 but was back as the starter the following year.
The 29-year-old cornerback is ahead of schedule in his recovery. The Bengals have been cautious with Hall but expect him to be cleared by the medical staff to take his spot in practice Thursday.
“Leon probably could have practiced in the spring, to be honest with you,” defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said. “But he’s been around. He knows what we’re doing. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Atkins tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Oct. 31. Lewis said that Atkins — who has led the team in sacks — won’t be cleared to practice at the outset, but could get approval early in camp.
“Geno’s goal is to be out there the very first practice. I’m going to keep him from achieving that goal because I want to lay eyes on Geno for a few days,” Lewis said. “That’s what I told him yesterday.”
There’s one other loose end as the Bengals get ready for camp: Andy Dalton’s contract. The quarterback is entering the fourth and final year on his deal, and the sides have been talking about an extension. Nothing appears imminent.
Dalton is one of only five NFL quarterbacks to lead their teams to the playoffs in each of their first three years as a starter. He’s 0-3 in the postseason, where he’s had some of his worst performances. The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1990, which ties for the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history.
Owner Mike Brown has been one of Dalton’s staunchest supporters. He thinks the negotiations will get resolved soon.
“This one has been going on for some while,” Brown said at the team’s annual preseason media availability. “We have had numerous discussions and I think it will — like most of these matters — find an ending soon enough. But I am not going to stand here and predict exactly when that is going to be. I don’t really know.”
The Bengals drafted AJ McCarron in the fifth round, hoping to develop a backup for Dalton. If the Bengals and Dalton can’t agree on a deal, the quarterback can play out his contract and the team could use a tag to keep him around for yet another season.
“He will have to make a choice; we will have to make a choice,” Brown said.
“So, you can count on one thing,” he added. “He’s going to be the quarterback here for the immediate future.”
Notes: Brown said that Giovani Bernard will be the No. 1 running back, filling the role that BenJarvus Green-Ellis had last season. The Bengals took LSU’s Jeremy Hill in the second round and are eager to see how the tandem of Bernard and Hill works. … The Bengals added guard Mike Pollak to their physically unable to perform list Tuesday with a knee problem. He can be activated as soon as he’s cleared by the medical staff to practice.