Like Pittsburgh Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick was an early participant in previous phases of the offseason program for his team. Also like Tuitt, Kirkpatrick is now currently sidelined with a hand injury.
It’s not entirely clear how or when it happened, but the former first-round draft pick described the injury as a “freak accident” that presumably took place outside of the context of football, and he did not elaborate upon it (perhaps he was dancing). The fracture required him to sport a cast on his right hand as he observed his teammates participating in OTAs over the course of the past few days.
While the cornerback himself assured that he would be able to return within a few weeks, his head coach, Marvin Lewis was reluctant to offer a timetable, and, of course, you never want to hear about an injury to a player that you just re-signed for over $10 million per season.
There were early reports that the Steelers were attempting to pursue the division rival—Ross Cockrell even admitted that the coaching staff told him that he might be replaced while they were going through the free agency process—but it wasn’t long before they found themselves out of their price range.
Pittsburgh is probably spending about the same amount on their entire starting secondary as the Bengals are on Kirkpatrick. Cincinnati has a lot of money committed to their own secondary, also giving sizable deals to Adam Jones, George Iloka, and Shawn Williams, while they have a couple more first-round cornerbacks awaiting their turn.
Darqueze Dennard, their 2014 first-round draft pick, got some opportunities in practice with Kirkpatrick out to work on the outside. The 5’11” veteran out of Michigan State has not gotten many chances to contribute on the field, and when he has, most of that has been in the slot.
Even though he admitted that he has “a lot of experience inside” and is “rarely” on the outside, he told reporters that “it’s two different worlds”, and “I’m more comfortable on the outside as well, and I think I kind of showed that” during the early part of OTAs.
Still, it would be difficult for him to get much of any playing time on the outside this season with Kirkpatrick and Jones entrenched as their starters. They have already stuck behind Jones through so much simply to see him lose his starting job this year.
There is also William Jackson III, their first-round cornerback from last year, who was unable to play during his rookie season because of an injury that landed him on injured reserve. It’s unclear how Kirkpatrick’s injury has affected his OTA reps.