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News » Cincinnati Bengals Inside Slant 2008-08-13

Cincinnati Bengals Inside Slant 2008-08-13

Cincinnati Bengals Inside Slant 2008-08-13
Chad Johnson was back on the field last week morning for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery June 18, and then caught a pass in Monday night's game against Green Bay. And while he might not have been full speed afoot in practice, his gums flapped in high gear.

Johnson traded trash-talk with safety Dexter Jackson during the 11-on-11 drill. Then Johnson sought out safety Kyries Hebert on the sideline, slapped him on the shoulder pads and said, "85 is back." Then Johnson talked some more while hugging safety Marvin White.

Johnson, however, said nothing to newspaper and radio reporters, choosing instead to sprint past them.

"It was good for him to get in with the rest of the football team and kind of immerse himself with the team," head coach Marvin Lewis said of Johnson. "And he's always raring to go; the biggest challenge now is to ease him back slowly and don't allow him to do more than he can."

In one seven-on-seven play, Johnson and quarterback Carson Palmer appeared to cross signals on a route in the end zone. Cornerback David Jones intercepted. On another play, Johnson ran a deep sideline pass. Cornerback Leon Hall ran in stride with Johnson, who caught the ball out of bounds.

"When you've been away from it, and playing the real game, it's different than the rehab," offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said.

But the other starter, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, did not play Monday. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Coaches will be able to more closely examine the performances of five players fighting for the No. 3 receiving spot and, well, simply a place on the roster.

The five principals for the role -- rookies Andre Caldwell and Jerome Simpson and veterans Antonio Chatman, Glenn Holt and Marcus Maxwell -- have been rehearsing at Georgetown College.

Bratkowski said none of the five has emerged as the favorite. "Time is going to tell. We'll make the decision based on consistency over time.'

"I'm excited as I can be to see Andre and Jerome, Marcus Maxwell, and Chatman and Glenn Holt, and not everybody's going to make it," coach Marvin Lewis said.

Roster spots are at stake.

The Bengals normally have six receivers on their 53-man roster. Johnson, Houshmandzadeh, Simpson and Caldwell are locks. The Bengals aren't going to let go of second- and third-round picks Simpson and Caldwell; they are the team's future starters.

So not only are Chatman, Maxwell, Holt and the other receivers in camp vying for playing time but they're fighting for a job. The other three receivers in camp are all rookies: seventh-rounder Mario Urrutia and free agents Maurice Purify and Clyde Logan.

The role is important in the Bengals offense. With the departed Chris Henry serving as the third receiver over the previous three seasons, the Bengals could almost overwhelm the opposing defensive secondary with options for Palmer. Henry, waived April 3 after his fifth arrest while in the Bengals' employ, was especially productive in the red zone: 17 of his 88 career receptions were for touchdowns.

But the third receiver might not be on the field as much this season.

"We may be in more formations without three wide receivers," Lewis said this past week.

Instead, the Bengals envision using more two-tight end sets with newly acquired Ben Utecht working the middle of the field as a receiving-oriented tight end. Utecht had 64 receptions the previous two seasons at Indianapolis, where he worked as Dallas Clark's backup. Utecht and five-year Bengals starting tight end Reggie Kelly have been busy as receivers throughout the spring and into training camp in practice.

CAMP CALENDAR: The Bengals practice Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon before breaking camp.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: August 13, 2008

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