Bengals backup OT Collins ready to fill in

CINCINNATI -- For Cincinnati Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the waiting game continues.

Once again, the eight-year veteran was held out of a practice, working Thursday on conditioning drills instead of game preparation as he recovers from offseason knee surgery. As the days get shorter between now and Sunday's opener at Chicago, the odds Whitworth will start his 65th consecutive regular-season game appear to be slim.

Still, the Bengals haven't yet said whether he will go later this weekend.

In the event the elder lineman isn't ready and has to be shelved, his backup, longtime reserve Anthony Collins, is confident he will fill his shoes nicely.

"I’m going to prepare like I’m the starter, period," Collins said. "Week 1, OTAs, Week 16, I’m going to prepare like I’m the starter."

Collins, a former Kansas standout in his sixth year, isn't trying to bash Whitworth by making that statement. He's just trying to let all who care know that he'll be ready.

And just who will Collins be getting ready for? None other than arguably the best power-rushing end of the last decade: Julius Peppers.

"He’s definitely the biggest end you’re going to go against. ... He's 6-7, 300," Collins said of the slightly more human 6-foot-7, 287-pound Peppers. "So you’ve got to play ball and be smart."

One of the questions surrounding the Bears this preseason has to do with the aging Peppers and whether he still has the playing ability that garnered him league-wide acclaim from the first time he walked on an NFL field in 2002. At 33, he might have slowed a half-step, but from what Collins can tell, Peppers still is very much the intimidating edge enforcer he was when he was a more spry and athletic rookie.

"He’s still the best," Collins said, "33, 21, he’s still Julius Peppers. So you've got to man up. Point blank, period."

Part of Collins' goal this offseason was manning up and taking responsibility in the film room. With Whitworth as his guide, Collins felt that now was the time to start better understanding defensive rushing patterns and offensive blocking schemes off the field.

"[Whitworth] is a guy that since Day 1, he watches tons of film," Collins said. "So by looking at him and by paying attention to him — actually paying attention to him — during this offseason or whatever, I got better at watching film and watching the guy’s every move. That’s how I think off the field I improved."

Something else Collins believes has helped him entering this season was making the move from the right side of the offensive line to the left. After the Bengals re-signed right tackle Andre Smith in April and saw where Whitworth was in his rehab from surgery, they switched Collins to the left side of the line in order to shore up depth behind their injured star. While over there, Collins started getting comfortable and took advantage of as many practice repetitions at the position as he could.

"Every rep offensively, I've been out there," Collins said. "From 1s [first-team], 2s, scouts, pass-rush, anything. Individual, I'm out there."

During those repetitions, Collins said, he worked on getting techniques down pat and learning how to let his muscle memory take over as he gets used to playing on the left side of the line. Now that he isn't bouncing between both sides, he feels more comfortable and confident that he can attack defenders with the same fluid motions and mechanics.

If he starts Sunday, Collins will be playing left tackle for the first time since his rookie season, when he lined up six times there replacing an injured Levi Jones.

"It's definitely not my first rodeo," Collins said. "And we're made different from where I'm from: Beaumont, Texas, Port Arthur, Texas. We're made different. Trust me, I'll be coming out ready to play."

And just how are Texas Gulf Coast football players made?

"Tough, grimy, with heart," Collins said. "Period."

Here's the rest of Thursday's Bengals injury report:

Did not participate in practice: LT Andrew Whitworth (knee), OG Mike Pollak (knee), CB Brandon Ghee (concussion)

Full participation in practice: DE Carlos Dunlap (concussion), CB Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion), TE Tyler Eifert (forearm), RT Andre Smith (knee), DT Devon Still (knee)*

*Still made progress after being held in limited practice Wednesday afternoon.