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Teammates, coaches not losing confidence in Kirkpatrick

Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has never been one to sugarcoat anything, so he was as blunt as ever in assessing the performance of second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in Saturday night’s 24-18 loss at Dallas.

But Zimmer also was quick to throw himself in front of the panic button that many fans were racing for after Kirkpatrick missed three tackles, committed two pass-interference penalties and allowed one touchdown against the Cowboys.

“Everybody is all nervous about Kirkpatrick,” Zimmer said. “He got beat up pretty good by Dez Bryant and a couple of the other guys. He’ll be fine. I want him to go out there and compete against guys. This is how you learn. You don’t learn anything by going out and shutting a guy down every time.

“He’s going to have to tackle better than what he did, but he’ll be fine,” Zimmer added. “I’m not worried about him at all.”

Kirkpatrick suffered a head injury in the game, so he was off limits to the media Monday afternoon. But a pair of his teammates echoed Zimmer’s assertion that Kirkpatrick will be fine, citing their experiences as youngsters.

“It’s one of those things you have to learn from,” said seven-year veteran Leon Hall, who recalled his second game as a rookie when he got beat for three touchdowns by the Cleveland Browns in a 51-45 loss.

“Some advice I would give to him is obviously try to forget about it, but realize what you have to do to get through it,” Hall continued. “It may happen again, and you just have to start that process over again. I would assume he was disappointed in how he played, but he’s a confident player. He’s been playing well through camp and in the preseason games. I think he realizes he’s a good player. He just had a bad day.”

Like Kirkpatrick, Hall was a first-round pick, as was Adam Jones.

“I’ve had a day like that,” said Jones, a seven-year veteran. “I told Dre to keep his head up. That wasn’t nearly as (bad) as my first preseason game. Dre has some stuff he has to work on. It’s easy stuff that he can fix. As long as he keeps his head up and thinks about the next play, he’ll be all right.”

Whit and see

Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who has yet to play a snap in the preseason after off-season knee surgery, simply said he is “in the middle of a process” when asked about a timetable for his return.

But head coach Marvin Lewis said he remains confident Whitworth will be on the field when the Bengals open the season Sept. 8 in Chicago.

“I can’t foresee the future, but I don’t have any doubts for it,” Lewis said.

It would seem doubtful that Whitworth will play in Thursday’s preseason finale against Indianapolis, but the eight-year veteran said going eight months without live action will not prevent him from being effective when he returns.

“It’s not a great scenario, but it’s the scenario we’re in,” he said. “I’ve played a lot of football, and the truth is the game I play is more about studying people, knowing the ins and outs and playing technically sound. That’s really the issue.”

Hawk walk

Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins was walking through the locker room without a cast or the help of the knee scooter he has been using to get around since injuring his left ankle Aug. 1.

Hawkins said he couldn’t speculate on a return date, allowing only that “I have the same goal as I had earlier, which is to get better as soon as possible.”

Despite being ahead of schedule with his rehab, Hawkins still seems to be a likely candidate to go on the injured reserve-recall list, which would shelve him for the first eight games of the season.

Sitting Skelton

Head coach Marvin Lewis said it was part of his plan going into the Dallas game not to play quarterback John Skelton, who is in a battle with Josh Johnson for the backup job to Andy Dalton.

After Dalton played into the third quarter, Johnson seemingly strengthened his grip on the backup job when he finished the game by completing 6 of 13 passes for 65 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“We’ll get John some reps Thursday night, but I like the progress Josh has made throughout camp,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “He gets better with reps, and the more he sees, the more he does. He’s an exciting player.

“People say he didn’t play that well the other night, but he took us to a big touchdown and two-point conversion and made some big throws,” Gruden added. “He had the unfortunate interception, but he got hit as he was throwing. Other than that, I thought he played pretty decently.”

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