Bengals Darqueze Dennard hopes to be healthy by training camp

Cornerback is coming off season-ending shoulder injury

The 2014 first-round draft pick suffered season-ending tears of his labrum and rotator cuff in a Week 11 loss at Arizona, but said Monday at the Bengals’ first voluntary workout session that he hopes to be back to full strength by training camp.

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He finished the 2015 season with 16 tackles, three passes defensed and one interception in 10 games after playing mostly on special teams as a rookie.

“(This offseason) is very important for me, especially knowing I didn’t finish the season,” Dennard said. “Right when I got the chance to start playing a little I got hurt. I’ll take the good things and the bad things that I did in the time I did play, and I’m just looking forward to spreading myself mentally, getting right physically and getting ready for the long haul.”

The shoulder injury wasn’t his first with the Bengals.

Dennard was competing for a starting role last training camp before suffering a groin injury in the first preseason game and spent the early part of the season as the team’s No. 4 corner.

The 24-year-old from Michigan State did well in limited playing time, and a rash of injuries in the secondary down the stretch pushed him into a bigger role just before he went down against the Cardinals. He was making his first start at Arizona, and the injury occurred when he landed awkwardly on his right arm while trying to defend a touchdown pass to Cardinals receiver John Brown.

Dennard also suffered a hip injury in the 2014 preseason and didn’t return until Week 2, but participated in just 41 snaps as a rookie. He was second on the team in special teams tackles with 10 that year.

Dennard said he hasn’t experienced any setbacks in his recovery, and rehab has gone well so far. The injury is typically a six-month recovery.

Getting through training camp healthy is his main goal now, but he’s also been trying to come up with a better game plan to prepare himself for a long season. At some point, something has to go his way, he laughed.

“I’ve been praying and doing different things, switching up my meals, stretching a little more and just trying to take better care of my body all around,” he said. “Talking to the doctors and trainers and stuff, I’ve just got to peak at the right time.”

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