But as he continues to progress from offseason surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left knee, Collins said this is the best he has felt in years. Collins said he underwent surgery in January at the hands of Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the famed surgeon who also repaired torn ligaments in Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow‘s left knee.
Collins was unable to say if he could be ready for the 2023 season opener.
“I can’t give you a timetable,” Collins said. “I’m not the guy that makes the ultimate decision. But at the end of the day, I feel like if I had to play today, I could put a brace on it and I could go to work. I know my knee is locked in and stable. Dr. ElAttrache [I think] is the best in the business. I feel great.”
The ninth-year player out of LSU suffered the season-ending injury in Week 16 of last season when another player rolled up the back of his left leg in a win over the New England Patriots. During Monday’s media availability as part of the team’s offseason workouts, Collins said he has started to do a few pass sets as he continues his rehabilitation work. He is splitting time between Dallas and Cincinnati, where he continues to work with the Bengals’ training staff.
In 2022, Collins was signed to a three-year contract worth $21 million as part of the team’s continued approach to revamp a beleaguered offensive line. He battled a nagging back issue that originated before he started training camp with the Bengals. That appeared to linger throughout the season. He had several designated rest days during midweek practices.
Collins finished the season 57th out of 64 qualifying players in pass block win rate as a tackle, an ESPN metric powered by NFL Next Gen Stats.
“With everything we have moving forward right now with the rehab and everything, too, I know I’m going to go into this season a whole lot healthier than I was last year,” Collins said. “I think it’s going to be night and day.”
Cincinnati has continued to address an offensive line that showed improvement in some areas in 2022 but still rated poorly. While the coaching staff praised the unit throughout the season, the Bengals ranked 30th in pass block win rate.
The Bengals made a big splash this offseason by adding former Kansas City offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to anchor the left side of the line. He signed a four-year deal worth around $64 million, including $31 million in guaranteed money. Collins said the move was a “big surprise” but was excited to have him in the locker room.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor has been open about the right tackle spot being up for grabs this offseason. The team is hopeful Jonah Williams, last year’s left tackle, will compete for a spot on the right side. However, Williams requested a trade following Brown’s acquisition. Whether it’s Williams, new signee Cody Ford or someone else pushing for Collins’ spot, the incumbent veteran is embracing the challenge as he continues his recovery.
“This is the NFL,” Collins said. “You got something to prove each and every day. I got something to prove today when I go out here and work out. That’s who you are. That’s what you’re about. You gotta know what you’re made of.”
Bengals’ La’el Collins feels ‘great’ but no timetable for return