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Cincinnati Bengals: Thumbs up for quarterback Andy Dalton

The Cincinnati Bengals began their voluntary offseason workout program Monday with an enthusiastic thumb’s up from quarterback Andy Dalton.

“It feels good,” Dalton said of the right thumb he broke Dec. 13. “There are no limitations for me. I’ve been able to do everything for about a month now — a little over a month actually.”

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Before receiving medical clearance, Dalton would occasionally fire a ball into his couch to see how the thumb felt. Once he got the go ahead to throw for real, he said joked that he sent his wife, Jordan, out for a post route in the front yard.

It only took a couple of weeks for Dalton to feel like his old self again.

“It wasn’t like a major difference, but there were little things I felt I could correct and shore up stuff,” Dalton said. “I feel like I’ve done that now. I’ve had enough time throwing that I’m back into it.

“It’s a progression,” he added. “I didn’t throw a ton right when I got cleared. I eased into it. A couple weeks into it, I felt like I was getting back to where I was.”

When Dalton went down in Week 14 against the Steelers, he was having the best season of his career and was in the discussion for league MVP with 25 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a career-high 66.1 completion percentage.

There was some hope Dalton could be ready by the playoffs. But when that didn’t turn out to be the case, there focus turned to whether he could play at some point later in the postseason if backup AJ McCarron could lead the Bengals to a win against the Steelers in the first round.

All of that was rendered moot when Pittsburgh eliminated Cincinnati 18-16 following an eventful final two minutes of the wild-card game.

Dalton said the fact that he didn’t receive medical clearance until March doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have been able to return had the Bengals held on to their late 16-15 lead against the Steelers.

“Who knows what would have happened if we’d have won, if I would have been able to come back and play,” he said. “We don’t know because we didn’t have to be in that position. As soon as the season ended, we just said we’re going to be real conservative with it, going to take our time and make sure everything heals with it, and it feels good.

“It was that and the fact that it wasn’t completely healed yet,” he added. “It would have been something the doctors and trainers, we would have all had to talk about it and figured out if I could have thrown or not. But it’s all speculation now, it doesn’t really matter.”

Following coach Marvin Lewis’ lead, Dalton said he was determined to bury the past as he pointed the conversation forward.

“It’s a new year, it’s a new team,” he said. “We’re excited about what we’ve got here. We know the foundation. We’ve got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football for this team. The mentality’s right – that’s the thing the coaches talked about, making sure the mentality is in the right place.”

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