Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said he was surprised to find out running back Jeremy Hill will be undergoing season-ending ankle surgery.
Hill injured the ankle in the final practice before the Week 9 game at Jacksonville and did not practice all last week. He finally landed on the injured reserve list Saturday ahead of the team’s 24-20 loss at Tennessee , but Lewis had been under the impression Hill would not need surgery until after the season.
“I think he’s consulted a couple physicians,” Lewis said Monday. “Both said this is something that could wait until after the season, and he just felt like it was causing too much discomfort.”
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Hill had rolled his ankle during the preseason, leaving an Aug. 27 game against the Redskins, and told reporters last week that it had been bothering him for some time but that he had continued to play through it.
Lewis, however, was not aware of any connection to the previous injury.
“I don’t think he had any instance of it since this August,” Lewis said. “He rolled his ankle in training camp, or warmups in a game, I can’t remember but one of those times in the preseason. But, that’s the only instance he had this fall.”
Hill started in seven games and rushed for 116 yards on 37 attempts (3.1 yards per carry), but this is his first season without a touchdown after compiling 29 scores in his first three years in the league. He becomes a free agent in 2018.
In the meantime, the Bengals now are down to two running backs with Giovani Bernard and rookie Joe Mixon, a second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma who has emerged with 107 carries for 321 yards and three touchdowns.
When asked if the team will continue with just two players in the backfield, Lewis simply said the need will be addressed.
“We will address that as we move forward now that his situation has been clarified,” Lewis said.
Hill was unavailable for comment Monday.
The Bengals (3-6) are last in the league in rushing yards per game with just 70.1 and have scored just three rushing touchdowns all season. They travel to play the Denver Broncos, whose 28th-ranked run defense allows 89.6 yards per game, on Sunday.