CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor said right tackle La’el Collins will be limited in his return to practice at first, but it’s helpful just having him back with the group for the first time since Organized Team Activities during the offseason.
Collins, who began training camp on the non-football injury list because of a back issue, was cleared to practice Wednesday, and Taylor said he would not be doing team drills right away. Not surprisingly, he won’t play Friday in the preseason opener against Arizona, but most of the entrenched starters are not expected to play anyway.
The Bengals’ coaching staff wants to see as much of the young players battling for roles as possible. There will be plenty of time to get Collins ready for the season.
“I think that’s a great, great step in the right direction for us,” Taylor said. “He’ll be limited. We’re not going to throw him out there in the team mixes, but just to get him back in the walk-throughs, get him in back in the individual with Frank (Pollack). That’s the starting process for this week and then we’ll continue to grow from there, but good to get him back in the mix.”
Taylor said it’s uncertain when Collins will get into team drills because he’s just taking it “day to day” to see how he feels.
Collins had still been watching practices and took part in the team’s offseason workouts, so he is already pretty comfortable with the schemes. He said the biggest thing he took from watching was getting a big picture of the whole offense.
As for the timing of getting cleared before preseason games begin, Collins said that wasn’t necessarily the plan all along, but he feels good and the delay to the start of his camp wasn’t much of a setback.
“I think we’re right on schedule with it,” Collins said. “You just gotta keep focusing on the small things every day and just keep coming to work every day and put my best foot forward.”
Collins did put on the pads and helmet for the first time Wednesday after getting cleared. Meanwhile, fellow offensive lineman D’Ante Smith is still recovering from a minor back injury and was limited to work on the rehab field to open practice, working alongside defensive lineman Wyatt Hubert.
Joe Burrow, now beyond the two-week mark post-appendectomy, still was a spectator at practice Wednesday, though clearly engaged in what’s going on with the team. He arrived an hour into the session.
Taylor still won’t give any hints at when he might be ready to return to a full practice, but said “every day has been a very encouraging day for him.” Although Burrow is not “mentally” behind, he has missed out on more than two weeks of physical reps, so getting those in over the course of the next few weeks will be important.
“When he does get back in the mix, practices will be focused on getting our quarterback ready,” Taylor said. “Making sure, you can give him a lot of credit, he’s a smart guy, we want to make sure we haven’t skipped any steps in terms of areas on the field we want to work on. There’ll be a lot of consideration when he does get back in the mix about how we structure practice to make sure he’s getting a lot of good work in.”
Burrow likely wouldn’t have played Friday even if he hadn’t missed time in camp. Taylor expects to use all three quarterbacks Friday with Brandon Allen playing the first half and Jake Browning starting the second half. Drew Plitt is expected to get time later in the game, but Taylor said that initial plan is “fluid.”
Taylor said “a large group of key guys who play significantly” won’t play Friday but there could still be some projected starters getting time. He planned on most of the first stringers getting longer drives and more reps in practice Wednesday instead.
With the ongoing battle at left guard, Taylor confirmed Jackson Carman will get snaps Friday. He’s penciled in as the team’s starter at that spot, but rookie Cordell Volson continues to push him.
“Jackson played a lot of course last year, but I think it’s good for him to continue to get that work, and I know he will attack it the right way and so it will be good to see him perform on Friday,” Taylor said.
Edge rusher Joseph Ossai, who missed his entire rookie year because of a torn ACL last preseason, won’t play as much as some of the other young guys, Taylor said, as his workload needs managed a bit as he ramps up to full-go. He will need a lot of reps over the course of the preseason because it’s been so long since he’s played, but Taylor said the Bengals want to “manage him the right way.”
Cardinals at Bengals, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 12, 22; 700, 1530, 102.7, 104.7