CINCINNATI -- And now, the Cincinnati Bengals breathe.
After a month of training camp and the preseason and three weeks of the regular season, the Bengals get to collect their thoughts these next 14 days as they go through their bye week.
More important than that, these next two weeks will give them a chance to heal aching bones and joints, and to rest the muscle strains and pulls that have caused them to be shorthanded through the start of the season. As much as the Bengals might normally hate having an off week that falls just four weeks into the start of a season, they are currently thanking the schedule makers for this unexpected, unintended early rest period.
As a result of the bye, the Bengals expect to be dramatically closer to full strength by Oct. 5, the day they are next in action.
Coach Marvin Lewis said after Sunday's 33-7 victory against the Tennessee Titans that linebacker Sean Porter (hamstring), receiver Marvin Jones (foot) and running back Rex Burkhead (knee) should be healthy enough to return after the bye. He also sounded optimistic about linebacker Vontaze Burfict, who spent all week on concussion protocol after suffering his second head injury in two games last Sunday.
Offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, who is reportedly expected to miss the next two games, also progressed from a calf injury this week, Lewis said. Depending upon how the next two weeks go for Zeitler, perhaps his return could come quicker than originally anticipated. That doesn't mean Zeitler will play at New England on Oct. 5, but it means he may not be out as long as once believed.
"I didn't like [the placement of the bye] to begin with," Lewis said, "but where we are injury-wise, it'll give us an extra week to get everybody back. We didn't lose anyone [Sunday] with anything serious, so we'll be as close to a full-strength, 53-man roster as we've been."
Defensive end Margus Hunt and linebacker Emmanuel Lamur were the only two players who left the game with injuries. Both occurred late in the fourth quarter of the blowout. Hunt had what appeared to be a shoulder injury after he dove for a sack attempt along the Titans sideline. Lamur left after being hit in the head.