The Cincinnati Bengals return from their bye week with a perfect 6-0 record and a roster that is the envy of all other 31 NFL teams, at least in terms of health.
Through six weeks, the Bengals' 53-man roster remains exactly as it did entering the season, a feat that no other team has managed to pull off, according to the Wall Street Journal. Further, Cincinnati is the first team since the 2012 Baltimore Ravens to go its first six games without a roster change. Those Ravens won the Super Bowl.
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The Bengals' good fortune in the health department has certainly played a role in their hot start, but has a change to Marvin Lewis' weekly practice schedule been a factor as well? Gone are the days of a full Friday practice, replaced with a mental session. That is followed by an uptempo walkthrough on Saturday to re-activate the body, as Lewis would say.
Veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth told the Cincinnati Enquirer that this is the best his body has felt this at this point of the season.
"I think this is the best, schedule-wise, it's ever been," Whitworth said. "I think it's exceptional."
"We're thankful," added linebacker Vincent Rey. "In the NFL, there are a lot of nicks and injuries and you never know when they can come. That's why you're grateful when you're out there, but you have to control what you can and the coaches are doing a great job with the schedule."
Besides the lighter practice schedule, Lewis has worked with his strength and conditioning staff to formulate a plan that maximizes player recovery from the rigors of an NFL season. Using GPS technology in practice, the team has been able to tailor its programs to each player's needs. And having that extra day of rest helps.
"We're basically finishing up our hardest part of the week 72 hours before we play a game, which we feel good about," Lewis said. "So the player has an opportunity to really work on his body. We get to go from the physical focus to the mental focus to the personal focus, for him to get his body back to a peak shape, whatever it may be for him, to play his best football on Sunday."
Cornerback Leon Hall is the only major contributor to miss a game, but the scary thing is that the Bengals may actually get healthier over the next few weeks. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is now eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list after offseason microfracture knee surgery, while first-round pick Cedric Ogbuehi is on the mend from the torn ACL he suffered in his final college game.
h/t: Cincinnati Enquirer