GEORGETOWN — The Cincinnati Bengals dodged a potentially huge blow Monday when their biggest off-season acquisition, defensive end Antwan Odom, suffered a sprained left foot.
Odom, the richest free agent in Bengals history, sustained the injury about 20 minutes before the Bengals made it through the first practice of their annual training camp at Georgetown College. He left the locker room on crutches with his left foot in a protective boot.
The good news for Odom and the Bengals came later in the day when it was revealed that the injury was just a sprain.
Odom, who signed a five-year deal with Cincinnati in March as an unrestricted free agent from the Tennessee Titans, is expected to bolster what was the NFL's worst pass rush (only 22 sacks) a season ago. He logged a career-high eight sacks last season, 4.5 more than any Bengal.
Coach Marvin Lewis did not offer a timetable for Odom's return
In his absence, Frostee Rucker and rookie Angelo Craig will get the majority of snaps on the right side. Robert Geathers is the projected starter on the left, backed up by Jonathan Fanene and Eric Henderson.
Chad sits out first practice
Wide receiver Chad Johnson (ankle) did not practice Monday morning, but offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said Johnson should come back better than ever.
“He'll be better than he was last year,” Bratkowski predicted, “because he had those (bone spurs) floating around last year, and they were bothering him. He should be better than he was last year physically.”
Johnson warmed up with his teammates for about 15 minutes in shorts and without pads for Monday's morning session before he left the practice field. After practice — which was cut short by about 10 minutes by a rainstorm — Johnson emerged from the locker room with the rest of the team, but he declined to talk to any media other than ESPN.
Though neither Bratkowski nor Lewis gave a timetable for Johnson's return, Bratkowski said he'll definitely be back before the regular season.
Marcus Maxwell practiced with the first team in Johnson's absence, alongside T.J. Houshmandzadeh, in 11-on-11 drills.
Rivers still unsigned
A couple of key Bengals did not practice Monday. Top draft pick Keith Rivers, the only Cincinnati rookie yet to sign, was among them.
Lewis said he hopes to get the ex-University of Southern Cal linebacker in camp as soon as possible, adding that “he would be able to get here very quickly” once he signs.
“It's going back and forth a little bit. It's a shame because Keith would benefit (from being out here),” Lewis said. “It's something that ought to be very quickly finished and easy to finish.”
Tailback DeDe Dorsey (groin) and fullback Jeremi Johnson (weight) did not practice either. Johnson was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list, and Lewis said Johnson is battling for his job.
“He's not in the condition he needs to be to practice football,” Lewis said. “He's battling a lot of things.”