Updated: 5-30-12, 5 a.m.
After Tuesday's practice in which he logged his most work of the four voluntary on-field workouts, Bengals slot receiver Jordan Shipley said he's close to 100 percent as he continues rehabbing from the torn ACL that wiped out last year in the second game of the season.
"It's not 100 percent, but I'm getting closer," Shipley said after he participated in some 11-on-11 work. "There's still a ways to go ... it's just a natural part of it. I'm getting stronger and stronger. It's a significant injury. Right now I'm just (focusing on) jumping and getting in and out of my breaks real fast. That's the main thing I have to fine tune right now."
If he's not all the way back by training camp, the Bengals could put Shipley on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), but that would mean he couldn't practice in camp or during the first six weeks of the season.
"It wouldn't surprise me if he is 100 percent by training camp," said offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "He's not quite 100 percent, but you can see his strength getting back. His speed isn't quite where it was before his injury, but it's coming. It's going to be a process."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Bengals kicker
There was some speculation Nugent wouldn't show until training camp, but now that he's married (May 19 in Hilton Head, S.C.) and he's been tendered the one-year, $2.7 million franchise offer for five weeks, he decided he wanted to be with the club.
"One of your goals when you get into the NFL is you want your team to want you back," Nugent said. "I'm fortunate to be in a situation the team wants me back. As long as I keep doing the right things so the team is saying that about you, that's my thinking about the whole thing."
Nugent, off a season he set the club record for field goals and points, admitted seeing "the business side of it is tough." But he's remaining optimistic a long-term deal can get done and he's hoping the recent four-year deal signed by Tampa Bay's Connor Barth ($3.3 million average and $4 million guaranteed, according to ESPN.com) might help move negotiations simply because there is now a number out there.
Kicker deals bounce all over the place and they're not always easy to compare. Barth, 26, has been in the league just four years and his overall percentage over the past two years that Nugent has been in Cincinnati is 87.5 percent compared to Nugent's 84.2 percent. Barth has an 83.9 percentage in his career, but he's attempted 70 fewer field goals. Nugent, 30, stands in at nearly 81 percent (127-157) as he heads into his eighth season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that puts him 16th on the active accuracy list.
What it all means is hard to say. Except that Nugent is coming off his two best seasons. When he arrived in 2010 he was a 79 percent kicker.
"I don’t know if it hurts, helps. I’m not really sure how to look at it," Nugent said of the Barth deal. "I kind of took it as a positive. It’s good he ended up getting a good deal. He deserved it. He’s been kicking really well for them. It’s one of those things, you hope we’ll keep talking. But at the end of the day it’s great being back with the guys and Darrin (Simmons) and working with the coaches and just showing them that it’s not like I’ve been sitting around the whole time. I’ve been staying in shape and started kicking a couple of months ago."
Nugent doesn't think there are going to be mind games here. There's a perception that when Shayne Graham, Cincinnati's most accurate kicker of all-time, got the franchise tag in 2009, he crumbled. But his problems early in the year were tied to long-snapping problems. What everyone remembers are Graham's two chip-shot misses in his last game, the Wild Card loss to the Jets.
Graham came into that game riding a streak of 12 straight field goals and 16 of his last 17 to secure his spot in fourth place of all-time accuracy at 85.22 percent. But with the Bengals trailing the Jets, 14-7, in the middle of the third quarter, Graham yanked a 35-yarder left. Then when the Bengals needed to make it a one-score game with 3:49 left, he sliced it right to end their comeback bid.
"If your team wants you back, I can’t complain about that," Nugent said. "The fact that my team wants me back and everyone’s been great through the process. Obviously it hasn’t been an easy process. But that’s why it’s called negotiating. At the end of the day you have to remain optimistic about it."
Another reason Nugent decided to come back is to hook up with the operation. He thinks one of the reasons he had a career year is because during a large part of last season's lockout he worked out with his snapper,
"I think a good part of that last year, myself, Kevin and Clark, we all three were in town and worked out together," Nugent said. "Being a kicker, you want to be around the team as much as possible. Even though there was worst-case scenario with the lockout, we had a good thing come out of it. We didn’t get to work with Darrin or tell him our status, but hopefully it showed in training camp that OK, these guys have been working together for the past three or four months."
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"It's early to tell, but right now I'd say it's close," Gruden said. "They are neck and neck and (Ryan) Whalen obviously, he can play everything (all positions) also. They are all showing promise. Just a matter of who puts, day in and day out, the most positive days back to back to back."
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