GEORGETOWN, Ky. (AP) — Antwan Odom zips around the Cincinnati Bengals’ training camp on a two-wheel transport, getting where he wants to go as fast as he can.
The Bengals hope the same holds true when he’s back in the lineup.
The 28-year-old defensive end has fully recovered from a torn Achilles’ tendon that ended his season after only six games. He still finished as the team’s sacks leader with eight.
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Odom sat out practice on Thursday with an illness that has bothered him the past few days, causing him to lose a little weight. It’s unclear whether he’ll play in the preseason opener on Sunday, the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, against the Dallas Cowboys.
He wants to get into a game soon.
“I’m very eager,” Odom said. “I can’t wait. I’m anxious. It’s going to be a great year for us. We’ve got a lot of key additions to the team.”
None bigger than Odom, who has been injured each of his two seasons with the Bengals. The defense finished fourth in the NFL last season without him, but struggled to get pressure on the quarterback at times.
“It’s huge having Antwan back,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said. “That’s what he does — get after the quarterbacks.”
The Bengals signed Odom from Tennessee before the 2008 season, their major offseason acquisition to help the defense. He hurt his foot during training camp and was limited to eight starts and three sacks.
Healthy at the start of last season, he emerged as one of the NFL’s best at getting to the passer. Odom had seven sacks in the first two games, an NFL record. He was tied for the league lead with eight sacks when he tore his right Achilles’ tendon on Oct. 18.
A sign of how much the Bengals missed him: Odom’s eight sacks still led the team at the end of the season.
Odom was well into his rehabilitation when the Bengals lost to the Jets in a first-round playoff game. He made it back ahead of schedule, and has no limitations in training camp.
“He looks good,” defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer said. “His Achilles is fine.”
The defensive line got sapped by injuries last season. Tackle Tank Johnson was limited by plantar faciitis in his right foot, which forced him to miss two games and slowed him in others. Peko missed five games with injuries to both knees.
They’re healthy now.
“Antwan is an explosive player, and we need him out there,” Johnson said. “Injuries or not, I’ve been able to play through stuff most of the time. Being able to feel good going into a game rather than having to get injections just to make yourself feel good is a plus.”
The biggest question was whether Odom would be able to overcome an injury that could cost a player some quickness. He hasn’t had any setbacks.
“When I get hurt, I get motivated,” Odom said. “Something comes over me and I’ve got this thing about proving people wrong. People tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to do everything I can to prove you wrong. That’s kind of what my whole life has been — proving people wrong. I’m used to that. It doesn’t bother me.”
Odom has become a trendsetter in training camp. Last year, he brought a personal transport to get from his dorm room to meeting rooms and the practice field, zipping past teammates on two wheels. Quarterback Carson Palmer bought transports for his offensive linemen last Christmas, so there is a lot more traffic around the place.
“It’s fun,” Odom said. “It helps a lot, I think. It saves your legs walking back and forth in the heat. I think everybody should have them.”
NOTES: Coach Marvin Lewis said WR Antonio Bryant won’t play on Sunday because of his sore left knee. WR Terrell Owens and TE Jermaine Gresham are expected to play. Lewis declined to say how long his starters would play. … Owens made a 29-yard touchdown catch over CB Adam “Pacman” Jones during practice, holding onto the ball while falling in the end zone. Later in practice, Owens ran the wrong route and Palmer’s pass was intercepted. … Palmer wore a protective brace on his left knee during practice, getting used to it again. Palmer plans to wear it in games as a precaution. He tore up his left knee during a 2005 playoff loss to Pittsburgh.