CINCINNATI -- Brandon Ghee would rather you save your sympathy. Give it to someone else who he feels is more deserving.
From a health standpoint, yes, he has had a rough start to his career, but he's not feeling badly about it. So to him, neither should anyone else.
Despite being concussed twice in the last four seasons, most recently this past preseason, the Bengals cornerback contends he's fine now and is ready to finally -- yes, finally -- get his career going Sunday afternoon in Cleveland. And yes, he says, knock on wood, he's for real this time.
"I just look at the bright side," Ghee said late Thursday morning. "Cup's half full. I'm not half empty."
After being forced to sit the last six weeks due to concussion-like symptoms, the fourth-year defensive back is all in again, fully cleared and ready to contribute. He was given the OK to return to practice earlier this week, and the timing couldn't have been any better.
As they recuperate from their third straight physical contest to open the year, the Bengals this week have been without several key defensive backs. Cornerbacks Leon Hall, Dre Kirkpatrick, Terence Newman and safety Reggie Nelson were among the members of the secondary who missed some or all of Wednesday's and Thursday's practices.
In an effort to keep the secondary's non-injured body count high, the organization added veteran Chris Crocker to the mix earlier this week. After dabbling this offseason into his post-football life by serving as a referee and brushing up on his broadcast skills, Crocker was pulled from home and welcomed back to the club for the second time in as many years. While the safety believes he can give the Bengals meaningful minutes if needed this weekend, the team knows it clearly will be better served by having as many healthy corners and safeties as possible.
For that reason, the timing of Ghee's return is critical.
"Definitely good to see him on the field to get some reps," defensive backs coach Mark Carrier said.
Ghee said he actually could have played last week, but trainers opted to keep him sidelined out of caution.
"With the new lawsuit, they're watching everything. They're watching concussions," said Ghee, who picked up his latest concussion during the Bengals' preseason opener at Atlanta in early August. Against Buffalo his rookie season, he experienced another after a hard hit left him motionless on the field for several minutes.
"If I had a third one, it would be pretty much over," he said. "They were making sure I was healthy."
Now that he has been deemed healthy and is cleared to play again, Ghee believes he can have an immediate impact.
"I feel as ready as I can be," he said. "I'm not the type of person to be all nervous and stuff. I like the pressure."
He added that he won't change his style of play because of the head injuries. Even though they came on tackles, the one in Atlanta was the result of helmet-to-helmet contact, he believes he can't play fearfully. "That's where you get beat," he added.
During organized team activities last year, Ghee was moved around the secondary from the boundary cornerback spots into the Nickel corner position where he routinely lined up against interior receivers. With strong play during the offseason workouts, he turned enough heads to convince the Bengals he could play that position. If Hall's bum hamstring ends up keeping him out this weekend, Ghee's ability to play in the slot could be key.
"I hope they throw me in the slot," Ghee said. "It's more opportunities for me. It's more plays."
Such opportunities largely have not come in his career. Since joining the Bengals in 2010, Ghee had mostly been used as a special teams contributor. Last preseason, it finally appeared he was going to get a chance to play a key role in the defense. Instead, a dislocated wrist shelved him for the entire season. Then, 359 days later, he was back on the sidelines with the latest concussion.
Through those three major injuries and four seasons, Ghee has seen the field just 14 times as a defensive player.
"Things happen," Ghee said. "To me, this is all a small stepping stone."