The Cincinnati Bengals navigated the preseason with the primary mission of getting to Sunday’s season opener as healthy as possible, and head coach Marvin Lewis said Monday he expects to have nearly all hands on deck Sunday in New York against the Jets.
The only player Lewis is ruling out at this point is tight end Tyler Eifert.
“He won’t practice with the team, but he’ll be doing his (rehab) practice,” Lewis said. “I don’t anticipate him taking any team reps this week.”
Eifert, who is still recovering from May ankle surgery, said last month he was optimistic he could be ready for the opener, but shortly after he began running during his rehab work a report surfaced that he expected to miss at least three games.
But Lewis said he expects everyone else on the 53-man roster to get team reps this week, and all 52 were dressed for practice Monday.
The most notable returns to the practice field were tight end Tyler Kroft (knee) and cornerback Darqueze Dennard (ankle), both of whom have been out for more than a month.
“For those two players, we’ll push them through practice this week and see how they are,” Lewis said. “Maybe they won’t quite be ready this week, but they should be ready for (Sept. 18 in Pittsburgh).”
Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi also practiced for the first time since suffering a toe injury in the preseason opener against Minnesota, and the 2015 first-round pick said there is no doubt in his mind he’ll make his first NFL start Sunday in New York.
“I’m healthy,” Ogbuehi said, adding that the toe injury was minor enough that he would have been playing with it had it occurred in the regular season.
“It’s real exciting,” he added. “New York, 9/11. It’s a big deal. I’m ready for it.”
Jake Fisher, last year’s second-round pick who suffered knee and ankle injuries in the second preseason game at Detroit, also made his return to practice but was working with the scout team during the portion open to the media.
Eifert was on the side rehab field with defensive tackle Brandon Thompson, who will miss at least the first six games after being placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list last week as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered in the regular season finale.
Another positive note on the injury front was the fact that James Wright made the 53-man roster and is expected to play in his first game in 20 months Sunday.
Wright suffered a knee injury in November 2014 that led to microfracture surgery. He was cleared to return to practice Aug. 1 and caught five passes for 39 yards in the preseason.
“It’s a tribute to James and Nick Cosgray (of the athletic training staff), how hard they’ve worked together,” Lewis said. “Nick has James back after missing an entire season. It’s obviously a big thing for James to be on the roster.”