The two main position battles during training camp are at the safety spot opposite Reggie Nelson and on the offensive line at center, where six-year veteran Kyle Cook and undrafted free agent Trevor Robinson, who is entering his second season, are competing.
“Kyle knows this offense like the back of his hand,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “He’s got that going for him. In order to beat Kyle Cook out, you better be really, really good. Trevor’s coming back from his pectoral injury and he’s a little bit rusty. He’s got to get back into the flow.”
Cook started last season on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in the preseason, an assignment that used to be a season-ender. But thanks to a new rule implemented in 2012, each team can designate one player for return from IR, and the Bengals used that tag on Cook.
He returned to the active roster in late November and played in the final four regular-season games, with starts in the final two and the Wild Card loss in Houston.
Robinson started the year as the backup to 10-year veteran Jeff Faine, who was brought in after Cook went on IR. But he eventually earned the starting job by Game 8. He started seven games before Cook took over.
“We have a great luxury of two guys who can play,” Gruden said. “And Trevor can play a little bit of guard, which helps. I don’t think we can go wrong either way, but with the knowledge Kyle has of the offense, right now at this stage he’s doing very well.”
Harrison helpers: When the Bengals signed 10-year veteran James Harrison in April, it was expected he would be a good mentor for the team’s young linebackers.
But thus far the reverse has been true, with Rey Maualuga and Vontaze Burfict helping the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year along.
“It’s a learning process for me right now,” Harrison said. “They’re helping me out with things that I need to know on the field. It’s a switch of positions for me, so to speak, where I’m learning from a younger guy.”
In a way, it’s the second time he’s started over in the last few months. After starting to get the feel of things during voluntary workouts and minicamp, Harrison is having to digest a lot more in the early going of training camp as defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer continues to install new things.
“I’m starting to learn the curve back all over again,” he said. “It’s a process.”
Papa Peko: Defensive tackle Domata Peko has been beaming and accepting congratulations through the first week of training camp after finding out his wife Anna is pregnant with their third child.
“I’ve got two boys, so we’re really hoping for a little girl,” said Peko, whose sons are 8 and 5. “I should say (Anna) really wants a girl, but I wouldn’t mind having another boy to give us a nose guard and two defensive ends. Either way it’s a blessing from God and we’re just glad he’s put the trust in us as parents.”
The baby is due right around the time of the Super Bowl.
Over/Under totals: The Pittsburgh Steelers are favored to win the AFC North Division, at least in the eyes of the sharps at Bovada.
The online betting site has released its win-total betting lines for the 2013 season, listing at Pittsburgh at 9 and Cincinnati and Baltimore at 8.5. Cleveland trails the pack at 6.
The Denver Broncos have the highest number in the league at 11.5, while the Jacksonville Jaguars are the bottom feeders at 5.