The Bengals returned to Paul Brown Stadium for off-season conditioning on Monday, but two key players got a head start last week in Texas.
“I went up to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and threw the ball around with Andy (Dalton) a couple of times,” said wide receiver Jordan Shipley. “It felt really good and I went back-to-back days which was big for me. I wanted to see if I could do it two days in a row.”
Since Andre Caldwell signed with Denver as a free agent and Jerome Simpson remains unsigned (there is no name plate above his locker, but it hasn’t been given away yet), the Bengals are missing two of their leading receivers from last season. The team is obviously hoping that Shipley can make a speedy recovery from the torn ACL and MCL that he suffered in week two last year against the Broncos.
“He’s done well,” said quarterback Andy Dalton. “Unfortunately, he had the ACL and all of that stuff, but he’s put in the work and you can see it. He’s running around really well, so I’m excited for him to get back out there working with us.”
“I’m planning on doing all of the workouts with the guys,” said Shipley. “I’m excited about the opportunity to get back. I think – if anything – I come back from those injuries stronger than I was before. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and playing around a little bit.”
Shipley also tore an ACL in his knee as a freshman at Texas and missed the 2004 and 2005 seasons, before setting the school’s all-time record for career receptions.
“This time has been a little bit tougher because I had a little more going on,” said Shipley. “Trying to balance a little more scar tissue and trying to get it loosened up, but I think it’s doing fine.”
While a healthy return by Shipley would give the Bengals a skilled slot receiver, they do not have an obvious outside threat to pair with A.J. Green. Marvin Lewis says there are candidates to fill the spot on the current roster including Brandon Tate and Armon Binns, but it is a position the Bengals appear likely to address in the draft.
“I think we have a lot of guys here that were pushing for playing time last year,” said Dalton. “But I think if we can get another one that would be great. We feel like we have a lot of weapons now, but if we can add another skill guy that would really help us out.”
Regardless of how the Bengals address the need at wide receiver, the offense should benefit from having a normal off-season that is not interrupted by a lockout.
“It’s going to be big,” said Dalton. “We’re going to start over – back to square one – and make sure we have all the ins-and-outs. It comes down to our comfort level. Now I’m not learning a new offense in my second year, so I feel really comfortable and excited to get out there.”
“Obviously, we kind of know the offense already, but we’ll be so much farther ahead this year I think,” said Shipley. “Last year, we had a new quarterback and with the season that he had, I think we’re going to have a lot more confidence.”
And while Shipley hopes to play a major role, he’s been cautioned not to take things slowly.
“I was informed today that I’m still in the rehab process, so it just depends on what they want me to do,” said Shipley. “If it’s up to me, I’ll be out there.
“I expected them to say that, but I think they just wanted me to understand that I don’t need to do too much.”
One of the most interesting experiences of Andy Dalton’s off-season was representing the Bengals when the NFL unveiled its new Nike uniforms at a gala celebration in New York.
If you look closely at the group photo of all 32 uniforms, you’ll see Dalton in the upper right-hand corner.
“I was standing on a little ledge and (the photographer) was like, ‘Step more to the left,’ and I said, ‘I’m going to fall off this thing if I go any more to the left.’” said Dalton. “It was just an honor. There were guys that have been in the league for a long time and have played very well and gone to a bunch of Pro Bowl, so it was just an honor to be there with all of them.
“It was pretty cool. Nike was all for it and said it was one of the biggest openings for a company. It was a cool experience and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.”
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