GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Although the Cincinnati Bengals continue to practice without several key players on offense, the defensive unit got a lift this weekend when second-year cornerback Johnathan Joseph was removed from the physically unable to perform list and participated for the first time in training camp workouts.
The team's first-round choice in the 2006 draft, Joseph had been rehabilitating from June surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot, an injury that occurred in minicamp.
Joseph, 23, is projected as the Bengals' starting right cornerback.
"It probably took a little longer than we thought it would for him to get back, but he'll be fine, and it shouldn't take him too long to be back 100 percent," coach Marvin Lewis said before the Sunday afternoon practice here. "We've been working him hard on running and conditioning. He's a key guy for us."
A former South Carolina standout, and the 24th player chosen overall in last year's draft, Joseph could be part of a very young Cincinnati secondary. This year's first-round choice, Leon Hall of Michigan, could eventually push eighth-year veteran Deltha O'Neal for the starting job at left cornerback. Another rookie, seventh-round safety Chinedum Ndukwe of Notre Dame, has been a camp standout and is vying for meaningful playing time.
Joseph left the Sunday afternoon practice early to ice his foot and receive treatment, but Cincinnati officials said that was not a setback and just part of what could be a normal routine for a while.
Bengals officials haven't decided yet if Joseph will play in Saturday's second preseason game, against New Orleans, but will closely monitor his progress and make a decision later in the week. The staff began pushing Joseph a bit harder on Sunday, to test him more, and to gauge his level of conditioning.
"I've still got a way to go, but I want to be out there, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get back to full strength," Joseph said.
Joseph saw considerable playing time as a rookie, starting nine games, including the final seven contests of the season. He logged the fifth-most snaps on defense, participating in 799 of 1,066 plays. Joseph finished with 67 tackles and, while he didn't have an interception, he notched a team-high 19 passes defensed.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.