When I was at Cincinnati Bengals training camp earlier this week, I spoke to defensive end Carlos Dunlap about his new contract and his attempt to stay healthy for a full season. I didn't get a chance to post his comments on the blog before he got injured again.
Dunlap will be out for an extended period after suffering a concussion in training camp, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Coach Marvin Lewis confirmed that Dunlap has a concussion and believes it's a mild one.
With Dunlap, it's never been a question about talent. He is a freakish athlete and a dominating presence at 6-foot-6 and 280 pounds. But injuries have stopped Dunlap from reaching his potential.
In 2011, he missed four of the last five games with a hamstring injury. In 2012, he was sidelined for the first two games with a knee strain. This is also Dunlap's second reported concussion in the NFL. He missed a week of training camp in his 2010 rookie season with one.
"Those are things that are a part of football," Dunlap said when asked about his injuries. "I feel like, as long as I can stay healthy, everything else will fall into place. When I’m out there, it’s like home. When I'm just standing out there watching, you can’t do nothing to benefit your teammates. There’s nothing like being out there with them."
The Bengals showed their faith in Dunlap when they signed him to a six-year, $40 million contract on July 15. The deal contains $11.7 million guaranteed, including an $8 million signing bonus. It is believed the Bengals could only make a financial commitment to one soon-to-be free agent defensive end, and they chose to sign Dunlap over Michael Johnson.
"That’s a big burden taken off me," said Dunlap, who was scheduled to make $630,000 in the final year of his rookie deal. "Now, I can focus on football and getting better as a player and teammate."
Dunlap is a factor when he's on the field, recording 20 sacks in 38 games. He was also the Bengals' most efficient pass-rusher last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Dunlap pressured the quarterback on 13 percent of his rushes. That's why predicting a double-digit sack total for Dunlap isn't much of a stretch. That is, if Dunlap can avoid injuries.