CINCINNATI – Not all gasps are made the same. They come in their own unique octaves and tones depending on the situation.
The gasps heard around the Bengals’ practice field complex across the street from Paul Brown Stadium were definitive. Someone was hurt and it was more than just any someone.
All-Pro wide receiver A.J. Green walked off the field under his own power Thursday afternoon after coming down awkwardly and tweaking his left knee. Green remained on the ground for a few minutes while the medical staff examined him, lying on his back and eventually bending both of his legs. Green had been in a one-on-one drill against cornerback Terence Newman when the incident occurred.
The full extent of the injury is not known. Green did walk with medical personnel back to PBS for further examination but head coach Marvin Lewis’ initial reaction after practice wasn’t one of concern.
“I think he’s fine. They went inside just to take a look, but I think he’s fine,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis. “It had nothing to do with the practice field. It was just the way he came down a little awkwardly.”
Lewis even joked that it was one way to conserve Green, who likes to take as many practice snaps as possible.
“It is one way for me to get him out of practice, though,” said Lewis. “I’d rather I pull him out rather than see him go through a dramatic fall.”
Welcome to an NFL training camp, where the aspirations and expectations of an upcoming season can take a dramatic turn with one gasp.
Before Green went down, attentions were focused on two former first-round picks from Alabama. Right tackle Andre Smith is starting camp on the Active/Non-Football Injury list, which is a long way of saying he hurt his calf doing stuff outside the spectrum of football. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, returning from offseason knee surgery, was making his first appearance on the field since last December.
Kirkpatrick was cleared medically on Wednesday to return to action. Last year’s top pick played in just five games due to injuries that included a concussion suffered at San Diego in early December.
“I’m probably the only guy in the country that’s excited about training camp,” said Kirkpatrick. “But I’m ready to go, I’m ready to give it my all.”
He showed he’s got some rust when it comes to techniques but there was no denying he has all of his speed and quickness. He matched up against Green a couple of times – both players went skidding into a grove of bushes behind the perimeter of the practice field attempting to quickly stop one time – and Lewis was able to see a difference in Kirkpatrick off of those matchups.
“It’s quite a change playing college football to NFL football in the secondary and I see that transition out here, which is really good,” said Lewis. “He had A.J. on the up ball over here and that guy last year would have ran smack into A.J. but this time he got into great position. He got A.J. in cut-off and he turned and played the football. It will come back very quick.”
Kirkpatrick’s clearance gives the Bengals’ secondary five former first-round picks in its ranks – Kirkpatrick, Leon Hall (2007), Terence Newman (Dallas ’03), Adam Jones (Tennessee ’05) and safety Reggie Nelson (Jacksonville ’07) – as training camp practices begin today. For all of the time he missed last season, he spent it well listening to the veterans and doing all of the mental reps he could.
Kirkpatrick missed training camp last year because of a knee injury and didn’t make his NFL debut until the eighth game of the season. He said it was a humbling experience, especially for someone who had helped his college team win two BCS national championships.
“Guys come in and you’ve got so much expectation and you get your motor going,” said Kirkpatrick. “The injury just set me back and made me think like wow, look where I’m at. At first I didn’t look at it like that. I was just so ready to go, I was anxious, I felt like I had to prove something. But now it’s a blessing to even be in this situation.”
Smith is missing the start of training camp for the fourth time in five seasons. The first season, 2009, was due to a contract holdout but the other three times it has been due to health issues. He said he hopes to be able to return to practice by Sunday.
Anthony Collins will get the first go with the first unit in Smith’s absence, while Dennis Roland will also see time at the position.
Smith did not attend the Bengals voluntary offseason conditioning program, instead choosing to remain in Birmingham, Ala., to take care of personal business. He also missed the team’s mandatory minicamp in June. The one time Smith did show up in Cincinnati was when he signed a three-year contract to remain with the Bengals in April. He said his absence in the offseason had nothing to do with contract talks.
He was listed at 342 pounds Thursday, just above his listed playing weight of 335 from last season.
“I missed my team, most definitely, but like I told Marvin I had some personal things I had to take care of,” said Smith. “Everything is fine. No more hiccups. I’ll be good… I don’t have anything to worry about when it comes to football because I pick up really fast and Paul (Alexander) is a really great teacher.”