Cornerback Adam ”Pacman” Jones smiled broadly as he left the practice field and headed to the Cincinnati Bengals locker room, wearing his No. 24 jersey for the first time all season.
At the end of an interview, he yelled, ”Yeah!” Then, for effect, he yelled it again.
”I’m smiling,” he said, in case anyone hadn’t noticed.
Jones was cleared to resume practice Monday under a three-week roster exemption. He missed training camp and the first six weeks of the season while recovering from two surgical procedures on his neck to fix a bulging disc.
The Bengals (4-2) could activate him at any time during the next three weeks. He’s hoping to be back on the 53-man roster Sunday for a game at Seattle, Cincinnati’s first coming off a bye week.
”I would think they know I’m ready to play,” Jones said. ”For the most part, I feel good. I hope they feel the same way.”
They could activate him without having to cut a player. Running back Cedric Benson is suspended for the game in Seattle, serving his one-game penalty for violating the NFL’s conduct policy. Benson served five days in jail in Texas before the season started, settling two misdemeanor assault cases.
Benson’s absence could have a bigger impact on the game than Jones’ return. Cincinnati’s defense has been its strong point during the surprising start, ranking first overall in the league for three of the last four weeks.
The Bengals have relied on Benson’s power running to take the pressure off rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. Benson ranks fifth in the league with 117 carries. He started all 16 games last season and all six this year.
With Benson unavailable, third-year halfback Bernard Scott is expected to make his third career start. Scott is more of an outside threat than Benson, who is at his best when running tackle-to-tackle. Scott has been playing a couple series each game and has 30 carries overall for 85 yards and one touchdown.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden will use Scott, halfback Brian Leonard and fullback Cedric Peerman against a Seattle defense that ranks 10th against the run.
”We’ll try a little bit different things here, but we’re going to be similar in how we attack,” Gruden said Monday. ”If that means opening up formations a little bit to do it, we’ll try that. We’re not going to stop running the ball because they’re good.”
The Bengals had most of last week off because of their bye. They got the roster exemption on Jones before their practice on Monday. He returned kickoffs during practice in addition to covering receivers as the third cornerback, along with starters Leon Hall and Nate Clements.
Jones’ biggest challenge is refining the techniques he uses to cover receivers. He hasn’t been able to do that while on the physically unable to perform list the last six weeks.
”Physically, I felt I’m there,” Jones said. ”It’s different when you get out there with the (play) calls. I feel I’m ready to go. The coaches have done a great job preparing me.”
Notes: MLB Rey Maualuga wore his pink cast on the left ankle while the rest of the team worked out Monday. A few hours later, he tweeted that he had the cast removed and he’s ”making progress.” Maualuga severely sprained the ankle during practice and had to sit out a win over Indianapolis before the bye week. He’s expected to miss the game in Seattle.