Bengals’ Hilton expects to play Week 11 at Pittsburgh after surgery

Sixth-year slot cornerback missed Sunday’s game with injured finger

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton said he damaged a ligament and fractured his left pinky finger in three places in the second quarter of the Oct. 31 loss at Cleveland.

After undergoing surgery last week, sitting out Sunday’s win over the Panthers and now having a bye week, he expects to be ready to go in Week 11 at Pittsburgh.

Hilton said he took his glove off during a media timeout after the injury and saw the pinky was swollen, but he didn’t realize how badly he hurt it. He finished that game, but by the next day, he was undergoing surgery.

“It was first half, second quarter, I can’t remember exactly, but just got up... and my adrenaline was running,” Hilton said Monday. “I could feel it. But obviously I was able to block it out and finish the game. … So, it was actually a little worse than what most people think just for a pinky, but like I said, I’ll be ready to go after the bye.”

Hilton said it was tough sitting out Sunday and missing a chance to be a part of a dominant win -- 42-21 over the Panthers -- but he’s eying a healthy second half of the season. Cincinnati is hoping to also get back defensive tackle D.J. Reader. Coach Zac Taylor said Monday he is optimistic Reader will be back “sooner rather than later.” Reader has been on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Bengals opened a spot on the roster Monday when they waived defensive tackle Domenique Davis, two days after signing him off the practice squad. Taylor said running back Chris Evans (PCL issue in knee) and Dax Hill (shoulder) are “week-to-week.”

Jalen Davis started in Hilton’s place at slot corner Sunday and played all but three snaps on defense, while also playing his usual roles on special teams – an extra 15 snaps. He’s been active for all nine games but was limited to special teams in the first eight weeks.

“I felt like it went good,” Davis said. “We got the ‘W,’ and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters. We got the W, but I feel like I played good and I was able to contribute a little bit to the team and to the team’s success, so it’s all good.”

Davis, originally a college free agent signee of the Dolphins in 2018 who also spent time with the Cardinals, joined Cincinnati in mid-2020.

He appeared in 21 games with the Bengals between 2020 and 2021, including in the Super Bowl after coming back from an ankle injury that caused him to miss the five previous games.

“I do feel like I’ve grown a lot just by the aspect of the group and the team, just like I don’t want to let them down at all,” Davis said. “So, I got to be on my ‘A’ game at all times, just to support them, so I don’t make them look bad, so I don’t make the team go bad. So I just feel like I’ve just improved on that aspect alone.”

Davis said Hilton helped him out “a lot” in preparation for his first start, just making sure he knew what he was supposed to do in certain situations and encouraging him.

The same went for during the game. Hilton was on the sideline weighing in as much as he could.

“I do my part on the sideline and make sure guys are seeing things and just being a hype man for them,” Hilton said. “Obviously I wanted to be on the field, just knowing the leader I am, but I embrace being on the sideline, just having those guys up.”

Hilton said he obviously would have preferred to play and he might have been able to, but the plan was for him to sit out as a precaution to make sure he would be ready to go for the long haul. The Bengals still have the second-toughest remaining strength of schedule in the NFL, according to ESPN analytics.

The sixth-year veteran just needs to keep working on his range of motion and strengthening the finger to make sure he can use his hands as well as he is used to in tackling. Otherwise, he is able to do everything as normal now.

“I missed out on it, but that was just the plan for me to get healthy,” Hilton said. “Obviously with the bye week here and the teams we have in the backend, we need everybody healthy and ready to go.”

NEXT GAME

SUNDAY, NOV. 20

Bengals at Steelers, 8:20 p.m. NBC, 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7

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