CINCINNATI – Receiver John Ross starts in motion toward the quarterback, and a coach blows a whistle. The teaching resumes. Ross has gotten too close to the quarterback to help block at the end of the line.
They line up and do it again, and this time the Bengals’ first-round pick gets it right.
Ross has been a focus during the first week of training camp as Cincinnati tries to get the speedy receiver ready to play. He’s still limited because of offseason shoulder surgery, so he’s behind some of the other rookies in getting up to speed.
He participates in drills that don’t involve contact. He stays after practice to catch passes from Andy Dalton, trying to make up for his lost time.
“I think it gives John a vote of confidence for him to continue to get a little extra work and the fact that the quarterback has sought him out to do that,” coach Marvin Lewis said on Thursday. “For these young guys, you want them to stay positive in what they’re doing and know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel because some of this stuff seems so far out at times.”
The Bengals are back to full-strength on offense after missing receiver A.J. Green, tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Giovani Bernard for much of their 6-9-1 season because of injuries. They’re hoping to get Ross a limited role at the outset and gradually expand it.
They’d love to get his speed – a 40-yard dash record time at the NFL combine – involved in some way. First, he’s got to get fully healthy and figure things out.
“That’s the thing for him now,” Dalton said. “He hasn’t been out there.”
The Bengals drew a lot of attention for taking Ross in the first round and running back Joe Mixon in the second, underscoring their determination to upgrade an offense that slipped significantly last season. Mixon is challenging Jeremy Hill for a main role.
Ross spends his evenings studying the playbook and watching video to prepare for the next day’s practice. He’s getting more comfortable with what’s expected.
“It’s not so crazy like it was the first week,” Ross said. “It was just so many things. You look at the playbook, but there are different things that can happen on the field. You’ve got to worry if the quarterback (changes) the play, if the defense changes coverage. It’s so many things that can happen at once.”
Take a seat
Mixon hurt his left foot midway through practice and was limited the rest of the way after getting the foot treated on the sideline. He returned, but limped slightly and didn’t participate in any plays.
Keep calm and practice on
The Bengals had a chippy practice on Tuesday that included two team scrums, the first set off by linebacker Vontaze Burfict tackling Giovani Bernard during a non-tackling drill. On Thursday, Lewis was unhappy after linebacker Carl Lawson got tangled with a teammate, lost his helmet and responded with a shove. “Don’t worry about it,” Lewis yelled at Lawson. “Did he hurt you? No.”
Offensive lineman Andre Smith has been limited in camp because of lingering soreness from triceps surgery last year, Lewis said on Thursday.
Just ignore it
Lewis likes the way Lawson is making the transition from defensive lineman at Auburn to an outside linebacker. Lewis has been trying for years to develop players who have skills similar to Lawson, without much success. “You have to get the right guy, and it’s got to break your way,” Lewis said. “You guys write about it all the time. So if you would write less about it, maybe there could be more of that.”
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