Taylor: Bengals ‘dodged a pretty big bullet’ with Sample injury

Credit: Aaron Doster

Credit: Aaron Doster

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said Friday the team might have “dodged a pretty big bullet” with Drew Sample’s injury at practice the day prior because it could have been worse.

The tight end came off the field Thursday during team drills and trainers were looking at his left knee before eventually carting him back to the locker room, but Taylor said there wasn’t any structural damage and he shouldn’t miss too much time.

“Probably be a couple of weeks for him,” Taylor said. “Probably dodged a pretty big bullet there. Just got rolled up. It’s hard to see on the tape. Hard for him to remember exactly how it unfolded. We’ll just give him some rest.”

Overall, it wasn’t the best day for the offense anyway, as the defense dominated the 11 on 11s and 7 on 7s, and the offensive line especially struggled. The Bengals are still missing a key piece there with right tackle La’el Collins still on the non-football injury list with a back issue, but right guard Alex Cappa has gradually ramped up his workload and was basically full-go as of Thursday.

Taylor said Collins is “progressing” but gave no timetable on when he might begin practicing. Collins has been watching the offensive line drills and trying to stay a part of the group, but in his absence Isaiah Prince and D’Ante Smith had been getting a lot of reps. Smith limped off from practice Friday, seeming to favor his right ankle or leg.

The Bengals aren’t concerned about whether Collins is able to play in the preseason. The goal is just to get him back for practice snaps before the season starts.

As for the left guard competition, Jackson Carman still seems to be in the lead, but rookie Cordell Volson also has gotten some first-team reps and Taylor still wants to see more. Hakeem Adeniji took a lot of the reps at right guard while Cappa was easing into practices following a core muscle injury in the spring.

“I think all those guys need to continue to grow there,” Taylor said. “That’s the beauty of training camp. We’ve only been, this will be our third day in pads, and so for those guys, you know, there’s a long ways to go to evaluate these guys. And they need to keep making improvement every single day. I mean, everybody watched (Thursday), it wasn’t good enough in any area on offense (Thursday) for sure. So we’ll continue to give those guys reps and see where the growth comes from.”

Also of note this week, linebacker Logan Wilson returned to 7 on 7s on Thursday and wide receiver Tee Higgins wore pads for the first time but both remain limited as the team eases them back following offseason shoulder surgery.

Burrow update?

Joe Burrow watched practice three of the last four days from a golf cart, but Taylor still indicated Friday the team is taking it “day by day” with him to see how he feels.

Asked how Burrow is feeling, Taylor said media will have to ask Burrow because he didn’t want to speak for him. However, Burrow has not been made available to media.

Burrow doesn’t need to be involved in any way, shape or form until he is ready, but he’s been around team meetings and watching practices when he is up for it.

“I think he’s been locked in and focused,” Taylor said when asked if Burrow could call plays or something while he’s not able to participate physically. “He’s in the meetings and helping lead like he was today. He’s been plenty engaged and I don’t think we need to stimulate him. He does a great job there.”

Eye on special teams

Punter Kevin Huber came back in great shape and ready for competition, as he will have to beat out Drue Chrisman to keep his job.

Huber has the advantage of already having chemistry in his other role as holder on field goals, which will be the responsibility of whichever punter makes the 53-man roster, but Taylor said everything counts when special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons ultimately makes that decision.

As for how kicker Evan McPherson has been impacted by different holders, Taylor said he hasn’t seen a difference.

“He’s been very consistent,” Taylor said. “I know his statistics, but I won’t rail them off for you today. But he’s been really consistent. He’s done a nice job coming back in year two and being focused and trying to continue to improve and Darrin’s probably better at the exact logistics there but he’s done a really nice job for us.”

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