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Happy returns for Geathers

Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker

GEORGETOWN, Ky. -- When asked the last time he stepped foot on the practice field, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Robert Geathers had to think long and hard.

"Maybe October, or maybe November," Geathers said, unsure of the exact date. "So it's been a while."

Geathers suffered a severe knee injury on November 20 in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The injury resulted in microfracture surgery, which kept him out of all offseason workouts with the Bengals this spring.

But Geathers said he would make it back for the first day of training camp, and on Friday the sixth-year veteran was on the field getting reps with the first-team defense. Geathers seemed to move well and had decent explosion off the football in his first action in more than eight months.

"I feel good," Geathers said. "I'm free for the first day. I still got a ways to go to get my legs under me. But so far I don't think I'm that far off. We're still on schedule."

A healthy Geathers could be the missing link to the Bengals' defense.

Cincinnati, despite being ranked No. 12 defensively last season, recorded just 17 sacks in 16 games, which was tied for the second fewest in the NFL. Geathers had his best year in 2006 when he recorded 10.5 sacks, and it's an important year to see if he can return to form.

"Up front on the defensive line with me and Antwan Odom, we get paid to get to the quarterback," Geathers said. "So it's kind of embarrassing for us to only finish with 17 sacks [as a team]. For us to have a top-notch defense, getting to the quarterback is going to be a big key to that."