According to Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, Atkins will play "a couple series" Sunday night when the team visits the Arizona Cardinals for its third preseason game. The Pro Bowl lineman, who tore his ACL at Miami on Oct. 31 of last season, will be making his preseason debut. Guenther added that Atkins would be playing with the first-team defense.
"Having him back's a huge deal for us," Guenther said. "It's good to see him back. It definitely means a big deal to us. ... I'm sure he's ready to get back and get his confidence up. I'm sure he's anxious to get back in there and play with the guys."
Atkins has been medically cleared since July 30, six days after the Bengals opened training camp. Since then, however, he has primarily worked in a limited capacity. During the open camp practices that he was part of, Atkins was relegated to position-specific work. He didn't take part in any 11-on-11 drills at that time.
Guenther said Wednesday that Atkins was an active participant in full team drills during the Wednesday afternoon practice.
"He looked good," Guenther said. "Everything's coming along as planned."
Those sentiments echoed others coach Marvin Lewis made earlier in the day when he addressed during a pre-practice news conference the possibility that Atkins might play Sunday. Lewis didn't sound quite as optimistic as Guenther.
"Everyone goes through a process and progression," Lewis said. "Geno's done well with it. Guys heal at their own pace and I think in the mental process it's always going to be at their own pace. But he's been good.
"Geno Atkins can push [head trainer] Nick Cosgray around the field all day long and it's not going to be the same. The football aspect he had to get used to and we've been able to do that and go slow with it knowing not only his value to the football team, but his value moving forward."
Atkins had 20 tackles and six sacks before his Week 9 injury last year.