It's all about patience this season for Cincinnati Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins.
He learned that lesson after suffering an awkward ankle injury Aug. 1 while stretching out for a pass in practice. At the time the injury occurred, he wasn't sure how long it would keep him off the field. A day? A week? A month? Three months? He had to wait until the trainers could properly diagnose it.
Eventually, he found out he would in fact be gone nearly three months, shelved while he rehabbed and worked on his conditioning while on the injured reserve/designated-for-return list. Patience.
In that time, he watched as his pass-catching teammates grew into one of the more diverse and versatile receiving units in the league. He may have wanted to join them, but he knew he had to be fully healthy and in complete shape before he could. Patience.
There were milestones during Hawkins' comeback that he had to hit, too. Like any player who has gone through a major injury, he had to purge his mind of thoughts about aggravating or reinjuring it at some point during his rehab or return. He had to get beyond the injury itself and renew his focus to where it was before he went down. He knew that would take time. Patience.
As he acknowledged earlier this week when he spoke with reporters in Cincinnati about his comeback, Hawkins isn't quite there yet. But he will be soon. Per rules of the IR's designated-to-return list, he can play again starting next week when the Bengals travel to Miami. While he wasn't sure whether he would be ready for that game, the possibility of him playing and contributing certainly does exist.
To kick off Friday's Morning Stripes, we look a little further at Hawkins' return:
To do that, we turn to the Cincinnati Enquirer, where Paul Dehner Jr. has this take on the comeback. Dehner looks at how appreciative Hawkins was of the opportunity to be inside Paul Brown Stadium on a mid-October day that had the first chill of winter in the air. The weather didn't appear to have an impact on Hawkins, who was just glad to be practicing with his teammates once again.
Another Bengals receiver, A.J. Green, was among the hot topics of conversation in this CBSSports.com interview from Thursday night with Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. Lewis was on Jim Rome's show as part of his "Newsmakers" segment. During that portion of the show, the coach spoke for about five minutes about his team, and most specifically about the maturity and growth of Green and quarterback Andy Dalton. One of the biggest takeaways from the interview: Lewis is impressed with Green's style. In addition to liking how Green carries himself on and off the field, Lewis likes the way he dresses, too.
Switching to defense now. Here's a story from the AP's Joe Kay. It's about cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and the increased role and responsibility he takes on now that veteran cornerback Leon Hall is done for the year with an Achilles injury. We've talked all this week about where the Bengals turn without Hall, but here's a look at one of the players they will turn to as they enter a sort of corner-by-committee setup.
One other young defender who has paid great dividends for the Bengals this season is linebacker Vontaze Burfict. The second-year player led the Bengals in tackles last season, and he's poised to do the same this year. He's on pace to have somewhere between 160-200 total tackles this season, depending on whose stats you use. That's mind-boggling. What else is mind-boggling to some? Just how good Burfict has been in his young career. Here's Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson's story on him.