CINCINNATI – Margus Hunt running down a football field to cover a kickoff is a scary image. Scary as in you don’t want to be the player charged with having to block the 6-8, 277-pound Estonian mountain of a man. Wait until the Bengals get some pads on their second-round draft choice and he actually gets to hit someone.
The Bengals’ rookie mini-camp wrapped up Sunday. It’s a three-day initiation into the team’s way of doing things, an initiation the 22 rookies who will be on the offseason roster can now take with them as they join the rest of the team around Paul Brown Stadium this week before the start of Organized Team Activities on May 20.
First-round draft choice Tyler Eifert made several contested catches, living up to his reputation, while Hunt and fellow second-rounder Giovani Bernard didn’t disappoint coaches with what they showed.
“I thought it was very good. I thought it was very productive,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “Obviously when you have 10 draft picks there is a lot of opportunity to get those guys involved and see them get incorporated in the offense and defense and a little bit into special teams. To a man I’ve been very pleased with what they’ve come out here and done.”
The OTA practices, which are voluntary, will run four days a week for three weeks leading up to the mandatory mini-camp from June 11-13. Training camp will start in late July.
Of this rookie class, third-round safety Shawn Williams would seem to have the best shot at being a starter in Week 1 at Chicago simply because it’s the position that has the greatest need and widest range of candidates to line up next to Reggie Nelson in the secondary. That’s easy to say in May.
When Lewis first got into coaching in the NFL, as a linebackers coach in 1992 with Pittsburgh, the Steelers used second-round picks to select Levon Kirkland and Chad Brown. But he noticed another trend.
“We always had a guy from a college free agent make the team and have some impact,” said Lewis. “I think the same was true from my time in Baltimore. We always had guys who hung around, were on the practice squad and eventually got their opportunities and they turned out to be good players and they played six, eight, 10, 12 years in the league. They started out in different situations. I think guys who have the work ethic and the mental capacity to do this and they keep working at it they make opportunity for themselves.”
Sixth-round pick running back Rex Burkhead was in shorts and his uniform but did not participate in Sunday’s final practice. No reason was given for his being held out of the workout.
There were 20 players at this weekend’s camp that were participating on a tryout basis. The Bengals typically sign a couple of those players to free agent contracts. According to Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals have offered Stanford defensive tackle Terrence Stephens a contract after his performance this weekend.