When Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie ran on the field Sunday for his first snap of 7-on-7 work since tearing his ACL on Halloween in Cleveland, his teammates responded in unison:
Awuzie had a simple message for them: “Shut up.”
Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie Practice Update
“They were trying to build it up,” Awuzie said. “I just wanted to go out there and play. It was cool, but it was like, just let me play, bros.”
On Monday, Awuzie got his first taste of 11-on-11 action. He admitted it was a milestone day for him, a moment he felt ready to embrace months ago. The rehab was difficult, but the waiting was the hardest part.
That’s why every he chance he got, Awuzie found his way onto the field to get in any work he could, as long as it wasn’t the 11-on-11 drills he was prohibited from doing.
He returned punts in the vice-tackling drill. He ran with the receivers in 7-on-air drills. Even Monday, once he was allowed to take sporadic reps in 11-on-11s, he still found his way onto the field on punt coverage, challenging the gunners racing up the field.
“Any time that I can just go out there and move around, get the speed of the game, get some conditioning in, I’m for it,” Awuzie said.
“I’m the type of player that if I feel like I can move, that’s enough for me. There were games a few years ago where COVID happened or I had an injury, but then game day happened, and I had to go in there and play, and I showed up. I’m holding on to those thoughts as I go through this process that as long as I know who I am, then I’ll be good.”
Or better than good, as has been the case since Awuzie arrived in Cincinnati in free agency prior to the 2021 season. He was playing the best football of his career last year before suffering the ACL tear in the second quarter of the Monday night game at Cleveland in Week 8.
Assuming he doesn’t play in the preseason finale Saturday at Washington, his first game action will be back on the same FirstEnergy Stadium turf where the tear took place when the Bengals face the Browns in the season opener on Sept. 10.
The irony and symbolism are not lost on him.
“When the schedule came out, that was the first thing I thought about,” Awuzie said. “I remember me and coach Lou [Anarumo] actually talking about it a little bit, so yeah, that would be a very symbolic game.”
When Awuzie ran onto the field for his first snap in 11s Wednesday after Tuesday’s off day, there was no “Ooohs.” Those came after Awuzie held the outside leverage against Ja’Marr Chase to intercept Jake Browning.
First play in 11s outside, Chido Awuzie picks off Jake Browning on pass for Ja'Marr Chase pic.twitter.com/SpIa0dEe4C
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) August 23, 2023
As was the case Monday, Awuzie was in for a few plays and out for a few as part of the plan to ease him back in. But he wasn’t the only one who wanted to see him do more.
“Chido would come out there for a couple plays, then go off, and we all was barkin’ at him like, ‘No, get back out here. We want to go against the best,’” wide receiver Tyler Boyd said.
“Not to say we don’t have any other good corners, but Chido’s one of the top corners in the league. We all believe that, and I know he do, too. Getting work against him will definitely get us polished going into Week 1.”
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