‘It Was a Kick in the Gut’ — TE Mitch Wilcox Happy To Return From Surprise Surgery for Day 15 of Bengals Camp

The Cincinnati Bengals took the rare step of playing music during team periods to pump up the energy on a brutally hot and humid day for practice.

The Cincinnati Bengals removed TE Mitch Wilcox from the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday, and shortly after his return to practice, the tight end talked about the injury that derailed his offseason and foray into free agency.

Wilcox said he had no indication anything was wrong until he underwent an exit physical following the team’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

What happened to Mitch Wilcox’s Knee?

Wilcox isn’t entirely sure how he injured his right knee, but his best guess is something that happened in Week 13.

“I can kind of trace it potentially back to something I did in the Chiefs game at home,” he said, referring to the 27-24 victory on Dec. 4.

“I never had any swelling, I never had any major pain, but I ended up needing major meniscus surgery,” Wilcox added.

While Wilcox put up modest numbers with 17 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown in four starts, all of them set career highs, and he was eager to test his worth in free agency. Instead, he had to undergo surgery, which was a routine procedure but had a lengthy recovery period.

“It was kind of a kick in the gut because I thought I had finished the season fine,” he said. “I was thinking I made it unscathed just to be told I didn’t make it out. So that stunk. But I kept in contact with the team, and I felt like I had a good relationship in free agency with them. So it was just a matter of getting healthy.”

Whether it was by design or coincidence, one of the plays that came Wilcox’s way Monday looked the same as the one that resulted in his first career touchdown catch in the 34-23 win at Tampa Bay two weeks after suffering the injury.

“It was very, very similar,” Wilcox said. “It definitely felt good.”

Wilcox said he feels healthy enough to play Saturday night in the preseason finale at Washington, and he sees no issue with being ready for the Sept. 10 opener in Cleveland.

“I’ll be ready for sure,” he said. “Obviously, I’d like to polish some things up about my game before the start of the season, but it was good to be back out there and get my feet wet.”

Music Man

Before the final few periods of practice Monday, head coach Zac Taylor took the unusual approach of calling the team together. After a short talk, the huddle broke, and a thumbs up was given to equipment manager Sam Staley, who cranked the music.

Blaring music is nothing new at practice, but it’s usually reserved for stretching and individual drills. Monday was the first time any of the players who were asked could remember tunes being on during an 11-on-11 team period.

“At the end, (Taylor) wanted to play music because it was hot, and we’re getting to that point in camp where practices are hard, and guys were getting a little tired and just low on energy,” linebacker Logan Wilson said.

“So he brought us up in the middle and told us how much we had left, and this is what it was gonna be like come game day in Cleveland (in the season opener) — hot and humid. He said, ‘I’ll get some music going just to try to get our energy up,’ and it worked.”

Or at least it did for the defense on a sticky, humid day where the temperature reached 95 degrees during practice.

Jake Browning hit Ja’Marr Chase for a catch in the front corner of the end zone, but special teams coordinator/practice referee Darrin Simmons ruled Chase out at the half-yard line. On the next play, Wilson made a leaping, one-handed interception of a Browning pass intended for Joe Mixon.

“It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure,” Wilson said of the play. “I just tried to make a play, and I was able to bring it down with one hand.”

Wilson started laughing as he was describing the play to a reporter. The reason was Browning just happened to be walking by the conversation, heard what he was talking about, and gave Wilson the finger.

Bengals Training Camp Attendance

Defensive tackle B.J. Hill sat out with what Taylor described as soreness, while defensive lineman Cam Sample missed his second consecutive practice.

Taylor said offensive lineman Cody Ford suffered a concussion in practice Sunday, while cornerback Marvell Tell got one in Friday’s 13-13 tie at Atlanta.

Cornerback Sidney Jones continues to miss time, making rookie second-round pick DJ Turner look likely to win the No. 4 cornerback spot, even though Turner was limited for the second practice in a row with soreness.

 Odds and Ends

  • Chidobe Awuzie made his debut in 11-on-11 work after making his first appearance in a 7-on-7 drill Sunday. Coming off the ACL he tore in Cleveland on Oct. 31, Awuzie didn’t want to guarantee he would be ready for the opener, but it sounds as though he will be, and he appreciates the irony of returning to the same field for Week 1.
    • “When the schedule came out, that’s the first thing I thought about. (Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo) and I actually talked about it a little bit. That would be a very symbolic game. Regardless, it’s a long season. Whenever I’m able to really contribute as being Chido, I’ll be out there.”
  • Backup cornerback Jalen Davis had two interceptions, one of which came on the goal line and saw him sprint 100 yards to the other end zone despite the heat.
  • For the second time in a week, a defensive back took wide receiver Tee Higgins to the ground. This time it was rookie safety Jordan Battle who got a little too aggressive trying to break up a deep ball that Higgins high-pointed and caught.
  • Sam Hubbard, Zach Carter, Trey Hendrickson, Joseph Ossai, and Raymond Johnson III each had sacks, while defensive back Mike Thomas shared another one with Hendrickson on a corner blitz.

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