CINCINNATI (AP) — Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is well ahead of schedule in his comeback from a torn Achilles tendon, inspiring hope that he could be ready for the start of training camp next month.
Hall will be limited to working on the side during the Bengals’ three-day minicamp that opened on Tuesday at Paul Brown Stadium. Hall tore the left Achilles tendon on Nov. 13, leaving questions about whether he’d be ready for the start of the 2012 season.
Hall has been running forward and backward without problem, regaining his leg strength and flexibility faster than expected. Instead of setting the opening game as the target for his return, Hall thinks he can be ready to take the first snap in practice when training camp opens on July 27.
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“Considering how I feel in mid-June, I feel like I will be OK,” Hall said, after emerging from the trainer’s room.
If the 27-year-old cornerback is fully recovered, the Bengals will be in much better shape to make another run at the playoffs. The secondary struggled after Hall got hurt. Even though Cincinnati made the playoffs as a wild card team, the Bengals lost a first-round game at Houston to finish 9-8.
The Bengals took cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in the first round, hoping he can team with Hall at cornerback at some point this season. Hall’s progress could allow them to become a tandem at the start of training camp.
“Leon has done very well,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “He has exceeded expectations by far. He’s done well. He’s excited with where he is. What he hasn’t had to do is the day-to-day stuff — how many snaps, how many plays.
“He’s been impressive, but we expected that from Leon. That doesn’t surprise anybody.”
While teammates went through voluntary offseason workouts the last few weeks, Hall worked on the sideline, running without a problem or a setback. He’s working on getting the leg back to full strength and getting to the point where he can run and turn without worrying about whether the tendon will hold up.
“I think it’s just really the confidence that I have in my Achilles,” Hall said. “That’s kind of been one of the things with the rehab process. For the most part when I do new things, the Achilles is strong enough. I just have to mentally believe it and just do it.”
Slot receiver Jordan Shipley also will be limited during the three-day camp as a precaution. Shipley tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the second game last season and is in the final stage of his recovery. He’s expected to be fully recovered for the start of training camp.
“There’s still a little bit of stiffness, but nothing big,” Shipley said. “I’m just kind of in the last phase of getting the speed back and all that.”
Shipley’s return also would be a big boost. The Bengals didn’t have a receiver to complement Pro Bowler A.J. Green last season. Receivers Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell left as free agents. The Bengals took Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers, the Big East’s career receiving leader, in the third round.
“We’ve got talented guys that understand the game of football,” quarterback Andy Dalton said. “Maybe they haven’t played very much, but they’re going to surprise a lot of people.”
Sanu lined up all over the field at Rutgers, giving him a greater familiarity with how passing games work. Green, entering his second season, has been impressed by how Sanu is picking up the offense so quickly.
“Sanu has been great,” Green said. “He’s a physical guy, great route runner, works hard. He probably is a better route runner now than I was because he’s played all the positions. He understands the game a little bit more.”