Taylor Mays knows he can't be intimidated by the wondrous skills of running back Reggie Bush this Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) when the Bengals go to Ford Field to play the Lions.
But since he first felt the Reggie Aura as a high school senior, he's already used to it.
"He was the man. He's still the man. He was my host when I went to visit USC," Mays recalled this week. "He's one of the big reasons I went there. They were winning. It was fun. It was fun to be in Los Angeles and playing football and he was the face of it. It was cool walking around with him. They didn't know me, but everyone (on campus) knew him and flocked to him."
Mays thinks the visit was in December, not long after Bush won the Heisman Trophy, which means that was a good eight years ago. Now Mays, a 230-pound safety who has been pressed into service as a linebacker in the Bengals nickel package, figures to cross paths with Bush at some point Sunday.
"You can't get intimidated by his speed or the moves he makes," Mays said. "You have to attack him. I'll have to use my skills against him. My size. I'm not going to beat him in an agility race, so I'll have to attack him and press him and be smart. "
Mays's strength isn't supposed to be coverage, but the fact is the Bengals are eighth in the NFL in preventing first downs on third downs, when Mays is usually on the field, and he's part of the effort that has run Cincinnati's NFL-best skein of not allowing a 300-yard passer to 21 games. This season the Bengals have already claimed Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Jay Cutler, and now on Sunday, Matthew Stafford looms with the Lions franchise-best 19 career 300-yard games.
"Obviously we've got an awesome D-line and I think we play with discipline," said Mays, alluding to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer. "Zim really stays on us and I think a lot of it is playing smart and knowing the opponent."
Mays still sees Bush around L.A. in the offseason, since Bush works out down the street from Mays's gym and sometimes their two groups get together and train.
"He's a good dude and let me tell you," Mays said, "he really works out hard. He is a hard worker."
Now the high school senior takes on the Heisman Trophy winner.
"It was really weird to have watched him play on TV and then he's hosting my trip," Mays said. "I played him as a rookie, but this is a little different. It's a great challenge against a back with special skills."
INJURY UPDATE: Take a snapshot. On Friday everyone had a full practice for the Bengals and was listed as probable when cornerback
Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) was limited as he has been for the past few weeks, but he's listed as probable and looks like a week after he played half the snaps he'll play at least 80 percent.
The most serious injury for the Lions continues to looks like running back Joique Bell and there has been talk of him playing with a flak jacket. He was limited Thursday and Friday and is questionable. His absence would be an annoyance. He's the short-yardage complement to Reggie Bush with 53 carries.