CINCINNATI -- If this were October, and Andy Dalton's offensive line was going through the attrition it is currently facing, the quarterback would have responded differently.
But since we're still barely into the second week of the Cincinnati Bengals' training camp, it's easy for him to laugh off the fact that he has had an undrafted free-agent rookie, a fourth-round rookie and two recent veteran free-agent additions protecting him in practices the last eight days.
"Right now, this is what you want," Dalton said. "You're getting a lot of guys experience and playing. If it were in the middle of the season and we had a different left guard every week, it might be a little bit different."
Trey Hopkins, the undrafted rookie from Texas, spent most of Thursday at left guard while the two players ahead of him on the depth chart, Mike Pollak and Clint Boling, took the day off as they continued to slowly get back into the flow of daily action. Both are coming off significant knee injuries. Boling tore his ACL last December and Pollak tweaked a knee earlier this offseason.
In addition to missing the veteran interior linemen, the Bengals have also been forced into playing around the absences of veteran tackles Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth. Smith suffered a head injury Monday and has been under concussion protocol ever since. Whitworth is battling through an offseason calf injury, and has spent all of training camp to this point on the active physically unable to perform list, rehabbing with other injured stars.
Marshall Newhouse, Dalton's former left tackle at TCU, joined the Bengals this offseason from Green Bay. He has spent his camp taking Whitworth's place, earning significant reps blocking on the left edge. Longtime tackle Will Svitek took Smith's place.
As the line continues practicing with the backups and experimenting with varying rotations, Dalton has been there to provide support. Primarily, he's been working with rookie center Russell Bodine in making sure he understands plays, and his responsibilities in them.
"That's one thing where he is a rookie and he's learning all this stuff, and so I'm just making sure he's learning the right thing," Dalton said. "Sometimes he's going to one spot when we need him to go to another. I'm just making sure he and I are on the right page. I'm letting him do his thing and if I need to correct him, then I will."
None of that is to suggest that Dalton thinks the player who appears to be his starting center isn't playing well.
"He's done a really good job," Dalton added.
Ahead of the start of training camp, it appeared Pollak was going to battle Bodine for the center job in the wake of Kyle Cook's release during the offseason. So far, no such battle has materialized. To this point, Pollak has only taken reps at guard when he's been on the field. T.J. Johnson has also been working at center with Bodine.
One of the areas Bodine still needs to hone is his snapping. He had issues late in the organized team activity practices in June and has sent a couple of snaps either whizzing over Dalton's head or too low to his feet. Dalton this week cautioned fans about worrying that the center-quarterback exchanges could be problematic this season.
"It's going to get eliminated," Dalton said. "We can't have that. That's the easiest thing you do on the football field is get the snap."
Dalton said in order to eliminate the snap issues, he and Bodine have to talk.
"I've just got to get him calmed down," Dalton said. "It's more conversations than anything. He knows how to snap. It's not like we're teaching him how to snap.
"He's going to be fine. I'm not too worried about him."