Kirkpatrick expects to debut against Manning

“I haven’t been told, but from the preparation, from the film study, just how the mood swing in the meeting is for me now, I just feel like they’re getting ready to debut me,” Kirkpatrick said.

Drafted in the first round with the 17th overall pick, Kirkpatrick has been sidelined by a knee injury he suffered before the start of training camp.

He made his practice debut on the final day of camp, only to suffer a setback that kept him out until Oct. 3. At the time head coach Marvin Lewis said he wanted to see Kirkpatrick practice for three or four weeks before activating him, targeting his debut for the first game after the bye, which is Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

“I’m very excited to go out there and get a chance to run around, give these guys a lift, bring a little energy to the table that they want me to bring,” Kirkpatrick said. “Right now I feel like (the knee) is better than ever.”

Kirkpatrick has been one of the first players to arrive at Paul Brown Stadium each day as he meets with defensive backs coach Mark Carrier at 6:30 a.m., 75 minutes before the first team meetings begin.

“You’re not going to get better unless you understand the scheme, and that’s the best way for him to get extra work in,” Carrier said. “He’s champing at the bit. That’s what you like.”

Kirkpatrick could give a lift to a Bengals defense that ranks 21st of 32 NFL teams, allowing 357.1 yards per game. They rank 16th against the pass (233.1).

If he plays, it most likely will be in nickel situations. And he most likely will attract the attention of Denver quarterback Peyton Manning.

“He’s going to picture me as the weak link because it’s my first game out there, so I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to come over my way,” Kirkpatrick said. “Only thing I can do is be ready.”

The excitement of possibly making his debut is only intensified by the idea that it could come against perhaps the greatest quarterback to ever to play the game.

“He was one of my favorite quarterbacks growing up,” Kirkpatrick said. “He’s a legend. He’s going to be a Hall of Famer. It’s kind of funny going to be great to go against him in my first game if my number was to get called.”

Perhaps the best indication that Kirkpatrick expects to play is his guest list. In addition to his mom Kim, who has been to every home game, his father Charles will be in attendance. A preacher in Gadsden, Ala., Charles will be missing his Sunday service for the first time.

“This will be his first game at the NFL level to watch me play, so it’s going to be a great feeling,” Dre said. “I’m going to be juiced up a little bit.

“Mom actually told me ‘If you ain’t playing, I ain’t coming.’ She’s a little tired with the road,” he continued. “But I told her ‘Let’s just see. If my number is called, I’m going to be out there and I wouldn’t want you to miss it for nothing.’ I’m going to make sure she’s there.”

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