Bengals WR Johnson sits out at camp; ankle still on mend

Updated: July 29, 2008, 11:09 AM ET
Associated Press

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- Pro Bowl receiver Chad Johnson didn't participate in the Cincinnati Bengals' first practice of training camp because his right ankle hasn't fully recovered from surgery.

Johnson spent time Monday rehabilitating the ankle, which was surgically cleaned out last month. The ankle is still sore and he runs with a pronounced limp. He warmed up with the team on the field and then went into the trainer's room.

"I know he wanted to be out here," receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. "But what he's got going on right now with his ankle is tough. But it will be cool. He'll get better and we'll win some games."

Offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said Johnson is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season.

"We knew when he came in to do his physical that he was not quite where he needs to be," Bratkowski said. "He'll go through certain phases of rehabilitation and conditioning and when they feel he's at a point where he's strong enough and back to where he can go full-speed, he'll be on the field."

The Bengals held their opening practice without top draft pick Keith Rivers, a linebacker from Southern California who was projected as a starter. Rivers, the ninth overall pick, is the Bengals' last unsigned rookie.

The defense suffered a setback when Antwan Odom hurt his left foot and rode off the field on a cart. The defensive end was taken for tests that indicated he had a sprained foot. Odom was the team's top defensive acquisition in the offseason, signing a five-year deal. Coach Marvin Lewis said there was no timetable for his return.

The opening practice also represented a major change for the franchise: Willie Anderson lined up at right tackle with the second-string offense.

The 33-year-old lineman is entering his 13th season, making him the most tenured Bengals player. He had his first significant injuries last season, when foot and knee problems limited him to seven games. Anderson made the Pro Bowl in each of the four previous seasons.

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Concerned about his leg problems, the Bengals have installed Stacy Andrews as the starting right guard. Andrews filled in at right tackle for 11 games last season.

Anderson initially balked at the demotion but has accepted it because he doesn't want to cause a rift.

"I've kind of changed my stance on that," Anderson said. "My thing now is: I want Stacy to be the starting tackle. I'm not going to fight it. I don't want it to be a competitive situation because I'm 13 years in [the NFL] right now and I don't have the energy to try to compete. I know that there are some things physically that in training camp, I'm not going to be able to do full-speed all the time."

Anderson looked good in the opening practice, moving much better than he did at any point last season. The Bengals plan to limit his participation in practice to keep him healthy.

"With Willie's situation, it's not just an issue with one practice and how did he look," Bratkowski said. "It's how over a two-week period is he going to hold up? Time will be the only thing that will tell that."

Lewis said Anderson has a chance to regain his starting job if he stays healthy and plays at his customary level.

"A lot of places, you don't get that opportunity, but he's earned the opportunity," Lewis said. "Willie, when healthy, has been a great football player."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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