Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie sat at his locker during OTAs with a smile on his face, feeling upbeat and optimistic about his recovery from ACL surgery. But while he certainly seemed on track, he said being ready for the first day of training camp was never a target date or goal of any kind.
Yet there he was Wednesday afternoon, 24 hours after passing his physical and being removed from the Active/Physically Unable to Perform list, running around doing position drills with his defensive back teammates.
“I’m a guy who usually likes to plan things ahead, but I’ve learned with this injury that I have to take it moment by moment, day by day. So that was really my focus. But that said, yeah, it was really fun to be out there with the guys. It was really kind of a reset.”
Chidobe Awuzie Injury Update
Awuzie’s injury was one of the great ironies of the 2022 Bengals season. He was playing the best football of his career when he went down on Halloween night in Cleveland, a game the Bengals lost 32-13 to fall to 4-4.
The injury forced the Bengals to start rookie Cam Taylor-Britt and Eli Apple at corner the following week, and the Bengals would go on to rip off 10 consecutive wins and reach a second-consecutive AFC Championship Game while one of the best defenders was on the shelf.
Taylor-Britt got better as the winning streak got larger, and now, lining Awuzie up opposite him and having Mike Hilton in the slot gives the Bengals the best starting trio of cornerbacks they have had since Zac Taylor and Lou Anarumo arrived five seasons ago.
“I’m happy to be back, but I’m more excited about being around those guys more than anything,” Awuzie said.
As fast as Awuzie’s recovery was — he said he was running, jumping, and lifting in March after having the surgery in November — his return to full work in practice will be more methodical.
“We’ll ease him into it these next couple of weeks,” head coach Zac Taylor said. “It won’t be real practice reps, but he’ll be able to participate in some walkthroughs, do some individual stuff, so it will be a slow increase over time.”
“He’s attacked (rehab) the right way, as well as you could have hoped, and that’s no surprise given who Chido is as a man,” Taylor added. “We still have to keep cautious going forward in the early part of training camp, and that’s really what we’re doing.”
Just as being ready for the start of training camp wasn’t on Awuzie’s radar, neither is playing in the preseason to shake off some rust and the uncertainty that often accompanies the first hard plants and cuts following ACL surgery.
Regardless of whether he plays in the preseason, all indications are that Awuzie will be ready for Week 1, which means his first live action could come on the same field in Cleveland where he tore his ACL.
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