Updated: 6:45 p.m.
With the Bengals set to play on EverBank Field’s grass surface Sunday in Jacksonville, head coach Marvin Lewis took his team across the street for a rare Friday morning practice on Paul Brown Stadium’s grass fields.
Maybe he should have taken them down to the Ohio River with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio calling for a Florida deluge on Sunday. There is a 70 percent chance of showers and possibly thunderstorms with winds out of the east at 11 miles per hour and gusts up to 17 on a day the temperatures could hit 80 near the end of the game.
Lewis figures it is going to be like any other rain and the showers are going to come and go. Nothing he can do, of course, but he says this team has been through the hardest rain he's ever seen on a football field when a storm passed through their Aug. 21 preseason game in New Jersey against the Jets.
» Right guard Bobbie Williams says he can play four quarters if asked against the Jaguars. No one is saying officially that Williams gets his 110th start in Sunday’s game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati’s Local 12), but the assumption is that’s what Thursday’s roster activation meant.
“Absolutely. That’s what I’m trying to do,” Williams said when asked if he can go 60 minutes after not being around football for a month. “That’s what I planned on doing.”
Williams certainly looks in shape to do it after losing 12 pounds during his league suspension. He said he was good at Thursday night’s Taste of the NFL, where his teammates and local restaurants helped raise money for The Freestore Foodbank. He said he tried the grilled shrimp.
“Practice was good on Wednesday. It was even better on Thursday,” he said. “It just feels good to be back out there with the guys. They’ve been out there with welcoming arms. It’s like I never left”
But Lewis indicated he’d love to have Williams in there Sunday as he tried to quantify just how important his intangibles are.
“It took all of about 48 hours for him to get back in the group and be himself,” Lewis said. “He’s such a fierce competitor and physical person. People gravitate to people like that. It’s different if you were a guy that wasn’t a combatant and annexed from your team for four weeks, then you come back in and it would be harder. But when you’re part of the epitome of being physical and what we do and how we work, I think it’s easy to be accepted back in.
“Plus, when you come back in the (good) condition and shape he came back in, guys took notes. That hurt. It hurt him. It hurt us. (But) he’s coming back stronger.”
Lewis declared after Friday's practice that it is the healthiest his club has been all regular season with 60 of the 61 players working. Guard Otis Hudson cleared waivers and was signed to the practice squad, where the Bengals cut defensive tackle
This is where Lewis starts knocking on wood.
Coming out of the lockout the Bengals remain one of the healthiest teams in the league. They’ve got three regulars on injured reserve in wide receiver
Lewis chalks up much of the success to the offseason research of strength coaches Chip Morton and Jeff Friday as they explored the NFL in the dark ages before OTAs and offseason workouts.
“They asked guys that were retired strength coaches what were their challenges and what would you do if you were coming out of our situation?” Lewis said. “We were able to listen to some of their thoughts and those guys put those things down on paper for me and gave me a chance to read through it and we’re trying to stick to some the things they said. Hopefully, knock on wood, it’s been benefiting us.”
Plus, Lewis says he’s made sure not to hamper the players when it comes to putting too much in the playbooks.
“We’re not going to wear you down mentally,” Lewis has told them. “I keep checking that I don’t go out and try to outcoach somebody and overcoach guys because we have to play fast.”
» The big question is with Williams back, does rookie right guard
» At The Taste, a dinner with quarterback