Bengals bracing for big hits starting today

One of the highlights of training camp will take place today when the Cincinnati Bengals line up for the Oklahoma drill.

A primal, brutal exhibition, the Oklahoma drill has become a ritual on the first day of full pads in the Marvin Lewis era. A defensive player lines up opposite an offensive guy and must shed the block and get to a ball carrier, who can only stray a couple of feet in either direction.

Big hits and bigger cheers are a staple of the drill, and cornerback Terence Newman said he can’t wait.

“I’m going to lobby just to watch the Oklahoma drill, and watch what goes on over there,” Newman said with a nod toward linebacker James Harrison’s locker. “That dude is strong. He’s tough. He’s got Kevlar in his helmet. That’s how hard he hits. Kevlar! I’ve seen it on people’s ribs, but never in the helmet.”

Cornerback Leon Hall echoed Newman’s excitement, but only in terms of being a spectator.

“Yeah, it is fun to watch, especially the big guys and the linebackers,” Hall said. “I don’t care too much for it. The only part I don’t like about it is you have to tackle the running back, which is kind of an unrealistic scenario. But what we do as a (defensive back) group, we focus on defeating the blocker, which is something you obviously need to do in every game.”

Practice is 3-5 p.m., and the Oklahoma drill is tentatively scheduled to start at 3:30.

Special day

Cincinnati Bengals rookie wide receiver Roy Roundtree, a Trotwood-Madison graduate, had one of the highlights of training camp today when he beat cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris on a deep ball from Andy Dalton.

It was one of a handful of catches Roundtree made during the practice, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for his father Willie, who was in stands watching with several other family members, including Roy’s brothers Jovan and Willie Jr.

After practice, Roundtree spent some time with the group, and the Hard Knocks crew rushed in to film it, all of which left Willie Sr. beaming.

“I’m so proud, man,” he said. “Very proud. He’s worked very hard for it. He’s always been a self motivator and a good kid. He really studied hard and studied the game hard. When he was home last week, all he did was study. I think he’s going to make it.”

Despite his solid performances thus far, Roundtree is still a long shot to make the 53-man roster. But he could be in the mix for one of the eight spots on the practice squad.

“Roy has really showed up so far,” wide receivers coach James Urban said. “He’s competing, and that’s all we ever ask for.”

Watch list

ESPN has released a list titled Top 25 Breakout Prospects, and there are three Bengals on the list.

The first one, coming in at No. 7 is no surprise. Mohamed Sanu was on his way to a terrific rookie year in 2012 when he was felled by a stress fracture in his foot. He was placed on IR and missed the final five games, but still finished the season with 16 catches for 154 yards and four TDs.

The other two players, who like Sanu are second-year guys, on the list are a bit of a surprise.

Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson comes in at No. 18. He played in just three games last year and was inactive in the final 12, finishing the season with two tackles. But with the departure of Pat Sims to Oakland, Thompson figures to see much more action this year in defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s rotation.

While both Thompson and Sanu were third-round draft picks, linebacker Emmanuel Lamur was an undrafted free agent. Lamur, who is No. 22 on the ESPN list, started last year on the practice squad but was promoted to the 53-man roster in early November and played in the final nine games, logging 19 tackles and two passes defensed.