Conner gaining ground on Charles in fullback battle

Cincinnati Bengals converted tight end Orson Charles debuted as the starting fullback on the first depth chart, but the second-year player was on the field for just eight snaps in Thursday’s preseason opener compared to 26 for veteran backup John Conner.

On Tuesday night’s second episode of “Hard Knocks,” the reason why was spelled out in brutally honest, bold letters by running backs coach Hue Jackson when he called Charles into his office.

“You can’t play football,” Jackson told Charles. “This is not a hard transition for you. You’ve got to do it, or you won’t be here.”

Charles didn’t say a word until Jackson was finished, vowing to work harder — and longer — by staying after practice.

“It’s definitely hard to hear, coming as a competitor,” Charles said of his meeting with Jackson. “I know I have things I need to correct and I have things I need to work on. It’s just the beginning of the process. I’m not going to take it hard. I’m going to pay attention to him and stay here afterward and work hard.”

Charles was the last player off the field Wednesday, the third day in a row he stayed late to run gassers and work on technique with former Bengals running back and current director of player relations Eric Ball.

“He knows he needs to play better and he will,” Jackson said. “One thing about our staff is that we’re very honest with players. When you’re playing good, I’m going to tell you and when you’re playing bad I’m going to tell you. He needs to play better, and he’s working at it. That’s all you can ask.”

Conner, a Lakota West graduate, was limited at practice with a foot injury he suffered in the Atlanta game.

“They don’t want me to rush out there and tweak anything,” Conner said of the injury, which occurred in the second quarter but didn’t keep him from finishing the game.

“It’s one of those things where your adrenaline is going,” he said. “You feel it, but it’s not something you really have to come out of the game for. It’s nothing serious, so I should be good.”

Conner earned the nickname “Terminator” from Rex Ryan during the 2010 season was he was with the New York Jets and they were featured on “Hard Knocks.” The show even re-ran some of that footage in the most recent episode while highlighting the battle at fullback.

“I’m just going out there and doing what I know how to do best, and I’m getting a little air time I guess,” he said.

With Conner still taking it easy on his foot and only one practice remaining before Saturday’s preseason home game against the Tennessee Titans, it would appear Charles is poised to get more than just eight snaps.

“It’s a good competition,” Jackson said. “(Conner) has played the position a ton, has ability and done a good job. John has the hands to play the position, but Orson gives you a little more versatility because he has played tight end.

“Orson has a different skill set than John because he has played on the line of scrimmage and been split out wide,” Jackson continued. “He brings a little more to the table, but it’s a heck of a race and both guys are working hard.”

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