The excitement for the season opener can be felt throughout the Cincinnati Bengals locker room, but it’s at an especially high level in the corner where tight end Tyler Eifert and wide receiver Marvin Jones reside.
Jones hasn’t played a down since the playoff loss to San Diego 20 months ago, while Eifert barely broke a sweat in 2014, playing eight snaps before suffering a season-ending elbow injury.
“I’ve really been looking forward to this,” said Jones, who suffered a series of foot injuries in the 2014 offseason and preseason. “On my road to come back, there were some days I was good, and there were some days when my mind wasn’t right. I just wasn’t feeling it for whatever reason. But ever since I’ve been back here, I’ve been driving the train straight and getting my feet and my legs back to where they need to be.”
Jones has field-stretching speed, but he is especially valuable in the red zone, catching 10 touchdown passes in 2013. Eifert is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Whichever part of the field opponents choose to pull help from against Eifert, it’s going to create opportunities for the other playmakers surrounding quarterback Andy Dalton.
“Those are two really good players,” Dalton said. “To not have those guys on the field and basically to not have those guys for a full season was tough. They’re a big part of what we’re going to do. It’s two really good players that we’re going to rely on a lot to make plays for us. I’m definitely happy to have those guys back.”
Eifert and Jones have spent the last six months talking about working their way back. Sunday the questions stop and the playing begins.
And they are as ready for it as anyone on the team.
“I’m back on the field, I’m back playing, all that stuff’s behind me,” Eifert said. “I’m just excited to help us win and do my part and do my job and have a successful season.”
Choosing captains: The Bengals named their captains, and the list is full of familiar names. They include Dalton and left tackle Andrew Whitworth on offense, defensive tackle Domata Peko and safety Reggie Nelson on defense, and running back Cedric Peerman and linebacker Vinny Rey on special teams.
Five of the six are the same as last year, with the only change being Nelson for linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who is beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list.
Injury report: Two who missed practice Wednesday and two who were limited were back to full participation Thursday.
Whitworth (back) and Carlos Dunlap (ill) were back to work after sitting out Wednesday, while cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard (groin) and Leon Hall (back) were upgraded from limited to full.
Defensive end Michael Johnson (knee) was a full participant for the second day in a row, making it likely he will play Sunday in Oakland.
Linebacker Emmanuel Lamur (hamstring) and Nelson (groin) were limited for the second day in a row, and rookie cornerback Josh Shaw (groin) also showed up on the report as limited.
Rookie defensive tackle Marcus Hardison (knee) sat out after being limited Wednesday.