CINCINNATI (AP) — The rest of the Cincinnati Bengals were starting practice on the rain-softened grass fields Monday afternoon. Receiver Marvin Jones was headed in the opposite direction, walking down the paved path toward the trainer’s room, slowed by a protective white boot on his left foot.
The defending AFC North champions didn’t make it through training camp unscathed. Pretty close, though.
Jones is one of the few regulars missing as Cincinnati gets ready for its opener on Sunday in Baltimore. He broke a bone in his left foot during training camp, had a screw inserted in the bone and is expected to miss the first few weeks of the season.
“I’m just excited for when I’m able to go out and play,” Jones said. “It’s a long season. So it’s no disappointment at all.”
So far, so good in Cincinnati.
The Bengals are close to full strength with only two notable changes on offense. Rookie Russell Bodine takes over at center for Kyle Cook, who was released. Giovani Bernard moves up to the starting running back role, backed up by rookie Jeremy Hill.
The Bengals drafted Hill in the second round out of LSU, giving them a power back to replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who was released. Hill is a better receiver and displayed his all-around game by running for 90 yards and catching a team-high six passes for 70 yards against Colts backups during the final preseason game Thursday.
“I’m definitely always confident,” Hill said. “They wouldn’t put me in this position if they didn’t know I could do those things. I just have to do on game day the same things I do every day in practice. It’s just being able to showcase it in front of the world, with more people being able to see it.”
Mohamed Sanu fills in at Jones’ spot while he recovers from the broken foot. The offense carried on well without him during the preseason, an encouraging sign.
“We’ve always been dynamic,” said Jones, who had 51 catches for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. “We know what we have and what our potential is. Just seeing them out there right is very exciting.
“We’ve been around each other. We know each other. It’s a great feeling.”
On defense, Wallace Gilberry moves from backup to starter at right end, taking Michael Johnson’s spot.
The Bengals decided to keep their team virtually intact in yet another attempt to break one of the longest playoff droughts in NFL history. They’ve reached the playoffs each of the last three seasons, only to lose in the first round.
They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, which ties for the sixth-longest streak of futility in league history. They are 0-5 in the playoffs under coach Marvin Lewis.
Their one rookie starter on offense will be a focal point for the Ravens’ defense. Bodine played a lot in all four preseason games, helping him learn the job and the offense.
“Experience is huge at this point,” Bodine said. “Being a rookie, Game 1 to Game 4 (in the preseason) is completely different. That being said, by no means am I perfect or am I there. My learning curve is still huge.”
The Bengals are used to either opening or closing the season against the AFC North rival — and sometimes doing both.
They’ve opened each of the last four seasons against Baltimore. In 2012, they opened and closed the regular season against Baltimore. Last year, they played two noteworthy games against the Ravens.
Dalton’s desperation pass to A.J. Green was tipped directly to the receiver for a 51-yard touchdown that sent the game to overtime in Baltimore, but the Ravens pulled it out 20-17. The Bengals eliminated the Ravens from playoff contention with a 34-17 win at Paul Brown Stadium to end the regular season.
Cincinnati has lost its last four games in Baltimore.
NOTES: Lewis doesn’t anticipate any significant changes to the roster before the opener. “We’ll continue to look at players (released by other clubs) over the next week, as we always do,” he said. “There are some guys we’ll have for visits in this week, as well.” … Dalton is 2-4 against Baltimore.
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