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Aaron Kampman returns to practice

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Aaron Kampman looked quite different back in his normal position.

Kampman returned to practice in a limited role Wednesday and with a new haircut. The two-time Pro Bowl selection had his long locks cut because conditioning his hair had become "a little too much for me."

Being on the sideline has become equally tedious. That could change this week, too.

Kampman continues to make progress in his return from knee surgery and might be able to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals.

"I'm just trying to work my way back," Kampman said. "I felt like there were some good things today, but it doesn't guarantee me anything. I have to continue to make strides and see where it's at. I'm definitely closer now than I was a couple of weeks ago."

The Jaguars (1-3) have lost three in a row and allowed a season-high 503 yards last week against New Orleans. The defense sacked Drew Brees three times, and despite the gaudy yards against the Saints, has played fairly well through four games.

Kampman, if healthy, would seemingly make it better.

The former Green Bay Packers standout has 58 career sacks, including 15½ in 2006. But his last three years, including two in Jacksonville, have been marred by injuries.

He tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in November 2009 and spent the final seven games on injured reserve. He signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Jaguars four months later and recovered in time to start the 2010 season. But he suffered the same injury to his right knee last November -- causing some to question whether he rushed back too soon -- and sat out the final eight games.

The Jaguars have been more cautious with his rehabilitation and return this time around, giving him extra time in an effort to avoid more problems.

"I sure hope I'm not going to get hurt again," Kampman said. "Part of the analysis is making sure I'm in a position where, obviously, I'm safe but also productive. ... Really what it comes down is making sure I can help the team. If not, then it's being selfish and talking something (from a teammate) regardless of what I can bring in the other areas of the game."

A team captain known as much for his leadership ability and locker room presence as he is for his pass-rush skills, Kampman should know more after the team practices in full pads Thursday. He played 10 snaps in the preseason finale against St. Louis and experienced some swelling in his knee afterward.

His performance also told him he "wasn't the player I am capable of being."

He dissected every snap in practice Wednesday and planned to do the same the rest of the week, looking for low pad levels, solid plants, sharp cuts and consistent strides on first steps.

"Very small things that most people are like, 'Oh, he looks good,'" Kampman said. "If you want to master something you have to master it at the very smallest details. So I look at real small details to understand. I know what I'm supposed to do, I know why I'm capable of, so I need to have those measurables and kind of see where I'm at."

Coach Jack Del Rio said Kampman is getting closer, but stopped well short of clearing him to play.

"Today was a step in the right direction," Del Rio said. "He just needs to be able to protect himself and function at a level where he's going to help us win ... not just out there surviving, but be able to actually impact and help us. That's the challenge."

Teammates welcomed Kampman back at practice, even if some had to look twice to recognize him with short hair.

"It's tremendous for him to be back for us," left tackle Eugene Monroe said. "Obviously, the type of player he has been speaks (volumes). You can look at any game of his. He got out there today and did some things, a lot more than I've seen him do. That was encouraging."