Updated: 3:45 p.m.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis delivered devastating news Friday when he revealed starting WILL linebacker Thomas Howard is done for the year after tearing an ACL in practice Thursday during a drill.
The Bengals were able to reach a deal Friday morning with the linebacker they released on cutdown day, 2010 fourth-round pick
"Just a freak thing that happens. I've seen too many of them in 31 years of coaching before I even knew what an ACL was," Lewis said after Friday's practice. "It was in our drills. He felt like he was fine, 'I'm all right, I'm all right.' Then they are not. Unfortunately, we take them in that room and put that machine on them and they are not."
Rookie middle linebacker
As Burfict played well in training camp, the Bengals were mulling how they could get him on the field with middle linebacker
Muckelroy, more of a middle backer, returns after recovering from a major injury himself when he tore his Achilles in the first half-hour of 2011 training camp.
Howard, 29, who signed a two-year deal in 2011, was coming off a career year in which he played more than 1,000 snaps and did so well that the Bengals traded No. 1 pick Keith Rivers to the Giants back in April. He also emerged as a leader for the team in the locker room and community.
"He's a wonderful, wonderful human being and he understands things happen for a reason," Lewis said. "He'll come out of it well."
Lewis said the Bengals were lucky to grab Muckelroy when they did on such short notice for Sunday's game against the Browns (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) because he and his wife planned to leave Cincinnati on Friday to go back home to Houston after lining up workouts with other teams.
While Muckelroy probably plays special teams Sunday, there are a variety of ways the Bengals could play it. One scenario is to start Skuta at WILL and use Rey, special teams standout, on third down. Skuta, who backs up both SAM and middle backer, has four NFL starts. Rey, who has played two snaps from scrimmage since he signed as free agent out of Duke in 2010, is smallish at 6-2, 250, but he's fast and came up with nine special teams tackles last season. He's played in every preseason game since 2010 and has finished second or third in tackles each year with a total of 44.
"He's so cerebral. He's a very knowledgeable player. You can see that right away on the practice field," Lewis said of Rey. "As soon as he got his opportunity. He's going to add another really, really verbal vocal guy into the mix. Lots of guys understand it and know and can't communicate it. Vinny's a really good communicator."
Skuta has made a career out of being there when needed. Nicknamed "Our General" on special teams by wide receiver
"He has good football aptitude. Obviously a very hard-working person," Lewis said. "He's got great intrinsic values. He's been a valuable guy in a lot of different ways."
Also out Friday was tight end
Lewis was holding his water on making a call on Dunlap and Scott and the official report is questionable. It sounded like they could go either way and it would seem to be a longshot they'll play since they never went full go this week. Dunlap sounds like he'll go before Scott. If the doctors say he's come through the week OK, he could conceivably give the defense 10 third-down rushes.
"Dunlap had good work the last three days; they both have," Lewis said. "Bernard has worked most of the time against the defense so we could kind of overwork him because we want to get used to him getting hit and carrying the ball and doing all of those things. He’s got a lot of work in.
"These guys, when they’re not with us they’ve been conditioning throughout so when they do get the green light from the medical people, they’re already ready to go conditioning-wise."
"Things are going well. It’s a nice sunny day today," Lewis said when asked about a prediction.
For the Browns, tight end Benjamin Watson (thigh) is the only starter that is questionable and he's been limited all week. Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas (knee) showed up on the report Friday, but he went full go and is probable.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
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