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Update: Bengals sell out; Nugent to IR; Lewis crossing fingers, too; Cook ready for another run

Posted Dec 28, 2012


Kyle Cook

Updated: 4:10 p.m.

The Bengals secured their sixth sellout of the season Friday at Paul Brown Stadium to pave the way for Sunday's 1 p.m,. season finale against the AFC North champion Ravens to be seen in the local television market on Channel 12 in Cincinnati, Channel 7 in Dayton, Ohio, and Channel 27 in Lexington, Ky.

But there are a limited number of attractive tickets available fom tickets returned by the Ravens and they can be purchased by calling the Bengals Ticket Hotline during business hours at 513-621-8383 or toll free at 866-621-8383. Tickets also can be purchased at any time by clicking here.

NUGENT TO IR: The Bengals officially turned to kicker Josh Brown for the playoffs Friday when they put Mike Nugent on season-ending injured reserve with a calf issue in his kicking leg and replaced him on the roster with practice squad cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris.

Brown, who signed Dec. 6, the day after Nugent got hurt in a walkthrough, has made all but one of nine field-goal attempts in the three games since and that features last Sunday's 43-yarder with four seconds left in Pittsburgh that gave the Bengals a wild card berth. Brown, 33, in his 10th season, plays in his 12th career playoff game next weekend when the Bengals go to a site to be announced.

The move puts the 30-year-old Nugent into a murky situation after ending his season on IR for the second time in his three seasons with the Bengals. He's the club's franchise free agent, earning a guaranteed $2.7 million salary after setting the team scoring record in 2011 with 132 points, contributing two winning field goals in the final 38 seconds during the playoff run, and being voted by his teammates the Ed Block Courage Award for overcoming the torn ACL in his kicking leg that cut short his 2010 season.

Nugent missed three of his last 12 field-goal tries this season, but he still finished a solid 18-for-21, and 10 days before he got hurt he hit his NFL-long 55-yarder against the Raiders at Paul Brown Stadium that tied the 33-year-old team record.

Lewis-Harris, a rookie out of Tennessee-Chattanooga, played in one game this season in Jacksonville and had 10 snaps on special teams. He has spent the rest of the year on the practice squad. He played in all four preseason games with 13 tackles and one sack.

LEWIS CROSSING FINGERS: Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is going to be just like every other fan Sunday. He's hoping no one gets hurt, but he says the limited rosters don't make it like a preseason game. There's really no one else to play.

That's another reason he keeps saying the Bengals will play all out even though the game means nothing for their playoff seed.

"You don’t have 70 guys, 20 guys that are vying to make your team or up their standing on your team and another 20 guys that are basically auditioning for the rest of the league," Lewis said after Friday's practice. "That’s the negative part of this situation, so that’s why it’s a hard deal. The other times we have been in this situation when you pick and choose who is going to play I’ve had guys who are good guys all of a sudden go ‘man I’m hurt coach.’

"I think the way is you have to go full speed ahead and cross my fingers and toes and get after it. I think in doing that be aggressive as playcallers, in all three phases and play it like any other game.”

Could it be like a preseason game in the sense if the first team offense gets into a groove that's been missing the past few weeks and strings together TDs and field goals in the first half, then get them out while they're hot?

“It’s a game we have to play and we’re playing a good team that is going to be aggressive. They’re playing for something and we know that," said Lewis, with Baltimore looking to play the Bengals again in Baltimore next week if the Ravens win and the right cards fall. "It’s for our fans; we want to give them a great game.”

COOK READY: Truth be told, when Kyle Cook looked down at his surgically repaired ankle in September, he didn't think he'd be back in 2012. But now he's getting ready to make a postseason start for the third time and the only other Bengals center that can say that is Bob Johnson from the mid-1970s.

But first there are the Ravens at Sunday's 1 p.m. Paul Brown Stadium finale and their tricky powerful fronts in what figures to be Cook's second start and fourth game of the season.

Cook admitted this week he's sore and maybe not quite 100 percent, but says he's also refreshed and ready.

"It's kind of hard to simulate a whole game, 60-plus plays in a practice. Obviously you can in training camp because you're wearing full pads all the time and in preseason it built up. I knew I was going to be sore. It was expected," Cook said. "I didn’t know how to envision it. To tell you the truth, I'm happy to be back. I'm shocked at how the ankle has come along. Half of me didn’t expect to be doing this much at this time."

Sunday's game might not mean anything for the sixth-seeded Bengals, but it does for an offense that started to struggle the week before he came back. Cook and rookie Trevor Robinson split the snaps of the two games before he played all of them in Pittsburgh last Sunday, when the Steelers took a Bengals running game that had been averaging 168 yards on the ground in the previous five games and held it to 14 yards on 16 carries with unabashed run blitzes  

"There's only so much you can do. We have five guys on the offensive line, a tight end, and a fullback," Cook said. "That's seven, and they bring eight, nine guys down in the box. Especially the way they play (safety) Troy (Polamalu). Troy's a heck of a player. He must have been feeling well the way he was jazzing all over the field. Basically doing whatever he wanted to do, in a sense."

The Bengals feel like their running game won't stall out like that against the Ravens with injuries crunching Baltimore on defense in a slide to No. 24 against the run. But the Bengals also don't think the Ravens are going to sell out against the run like the Steelers did.

"If anything it’s a good thing we saw it. It's not something you see or expect to see, but now that we've experienced it, we kind of know how to handle it," Cook said. "I guess maybe we'll know some different plays to get into if were getting those kinds of problems.

"The (Ravens have) great players up front and we'll take whatever we can get. Teams have been able to run the ball on them this season more than they have in the past. But they're making up for it as far as what they're doing. They have good coverage and they have some blitzes in there. We not only need to run the ball, we just need to have a complete game on offense and go into the playoff run with some confidence and get things rolling. Get back in the groove of things."

Although the Bengals had been rolling up efficient numbers with Robinson in there, offensive coordinator Jay Gruden doesn't hesitate going back to Cook's experience. Particularly in this demanding finish of Pittsburgh, Baltimore and then the playoffs.

"Cook did fine. Any time you’re playing a team with multiple fronts and issues, to have a veteran center who’s been there and seen all that to make the calls and help everybody out along the line, it’s a good thing," Gruden said. "Both of them are good, solid centers in the NFL. We can’t go wrong either way. So we’re very fortunate in that regard."

But if there are two things Gruden would like to do Sunday to get ready for the playoffs, it is revive the running game and sharpen up the deep ball. He thinks the Steelers game is an aberration when it comes to the run.

"We had some success running the ball the last four or five games. (Green-Ellis) had four games over 100 out of five and the other one was (89), so I think they had a great game plan for us and we just didn’t get the looks that we liked," Gruden said. "But we’re not going to give up on it by any stretch. We’ve got to keep battling away and try to find ways to get some lanes and alleys. We’ll do the best we can as a staff to try to find those ways to run the ball.

PRACTICE CALL: Green-Ellis, out Thursday with an illness, was back outside on the PBS turf for Friday morning's practice, went full, and is probable, as are cornerback Adam Jones (hamstring) and safety Reggie Nelson (shoulder). They both went full as well. Cornerbacks Jason Allen (hamstring) and Terence Newman (groin) were limited and are questionable.

It's hard to see the Ravens playing two Pro Bowlers that didn't practice this week even though they've called them questionable in right guard Marshal Yanda (knee, shoulder) and nose tackle Haloti Ngata (knee). Two other starters, wide receiver Anquan Boldin (shoulder) and fullback Vonta Leach (ankle) are also questionable after being limited Friday.

HANG TEN: Ten wins is a nice round number in the NFL and if the Bengals win Sunday they finish 10-6 and Lewis becomes the first Bengals coach to have three seasons of at least 10 wins. Like Lewis in 2005 and 2009, Paul Brown did it twice, in 1973 and 1975, as did Sam Wyche in 1986 and 1988.

“Winning 10 games is huge. When you start the season you want to go 16-0 but you know since we’ve gone to the four division, 16-team deal that there’s only one time 10 wins hasn’t gotten a team in the playoffs," Lewis said. "That’s always a mark you’ve got your eyes on. (When I was) starting in the NFL in Pittsburgh, you are racing to get 10.”

BUBBLE WORKS: With the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio calling for a frigid Sunday of 26 degrees under partly cloudy skies and winds out of the west at about 10 miles per hour, Lewis opted to stay on schedule and keep his team outside in similar conditions Thursday and Friday. But he thought he made a good call to get them out of Wednesday's winter storm and send them into the University of Cincinnati's bubble.

"I think going inside did what we needed to do and that was being able to get out and run and do things and the guys didn't have to fight through the elements like we did last week," Lewis said. "I didn’t want to alter our schedule. I thought it was important to keep things the way we were and stay on track. But I thought it was worth the 10-minute ride on Wednesday and it worked out well for us.

"Yesterday I chose to stay here and today was a good day. It keeps our guys in the early schedule, it gets them out of the building a little earlier. We get the physical time and mental time and yet we're able to get out of here an hour and an hour and a half earlier and it's good for the coaches, too."

Lewis said the team could make a return trip next week.

"Possibly," he said. "It depends. We get their focus, we get their attention, and you like the teaching environment that it can provide." 

 

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