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Notes: Partly sunny on Gresham; Gio limited, questionable; Lewis likes back rotation

Posted Nov 8, 2013

Tight end Jermaine Gresham didn't practice for the second straight day Friday, but head coach Marvin Lewis said after practice "he should be fine," for Sunday.


Jermaine Gresham

Update: 5:40 p.m.

Tight end Jermaine Gresham (groin) didn't practice for the second straight day Friday, but head coach Marvin Lewis said after practice "he should be fine" for Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Baltimore.

"Just had to put him at ease. Hopefully he'll be OK," Lewis said in calling Gresham's outlook "partly sunny."

Also out as they have been all week were middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (concussion, knee) and defensive tackle Devon Still (elbow), and they were declared out for Sunday. Rookie running back Giovani Bernard (rib) went limited for a third straight day and was ruled questionable. It looks Vinny Rey is going to get his second straight start at middle linebacker after Michael Boley was downgraded to doubtful when he didn't work Friday after going limited Thursday. Right guard Kevin Zeitler went full Friday after being limited the first two days this week and was probable.

If Gresham doesn't go, that is going to make the Bengals look a lot different, considering that he's been on the field for 94 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. It not only takes a weapon out of the passing game (seven third-down catches, 33 overall), but it impacts the running game since the Bengals go with at least two tight ends half the time. And the formation of two tight ends and two wide receivers has been used 147 times on first-and-10, according to NFL stats, more than double any other formation on first-and-10.

It no doubt means H-back Orson Charles is going to play more on passing downs and more downs period. According to PFF, 17 of his 19 snaps have come in the run game.

On the other side, if Gresham doesn't play, is that rookie tight end Tyler Eifert has proven to be as solid a target with each catching about 73 percent of the passes thrown his way. Eifert has six fewer catches and 14 fewer yards. Plus, tight end Alex Smith played against the Ravens last year as a member of the Browns.

But it all looks to be moot if Lewis's optimism holds.

MARV ON GIO: Yes, Lewis has heard the drumbeat for Bernard. But, and offensive coordinator Jay Gruden could have attested, Lewis isn't rushing the 5-9, 205-pound Bernard into a feature role.

"It's as expected and it will continue that way," Lewis said Friday. "Regardless of what anybody else and (the media) continue to say and write about it. I like what we're doing. This is the best way for our football team. I think we need a lot of guys to play a high level. If there's a play or two (Gruden) likes from BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) or one or two plays he likes for Gio, he can alter the play sheet that way. Just like Mike Zimmer does on defense according to personnel groups."

Lewis points to the man the Bengals face Sunday. At 5-8, 212 pounds, Ravens running back Ray Rice exploded into a Pro Bowler. But Lewis says it took him a couple of years to get his body acclimated to the pounding.

"Ray started out this way," Lewis said. "The progression. Everybody looks at Ray Rice today, but look at Ray Rice in his first year. There's always been another runner with Ray, a bigger body guy."

It's scary how close Bernard and Rice compare in their first nine NFL games. By this time in 2008, Rice did have two 20-plus carry games (one against the Bengals) and one 100-yard game while Bernard had his career high last week in Miami with 79 yards and his most carries in Buffalo with 15.

But after nine games, Bernard has four more carries (81-77), five more yards (361-356), and 10 more catches (30-20) with six total touchdowns to Rice's none.

"As we say with any rookie player," Lewis said, "they spend that whole offseason after college preparing to get drafted. After they spend a year here in the NFL, they prepare the next year to play NFL football. And if you read Ray Rice's comments after his rookie year, it was exactly that. 'I understand what I have to do and now I know how to prepare myself for what I'm going to endure as an NFL running back.' "

RETURN OF THE NATIVE: Lewis returns for the first time to Baltimore when there is no Raven from the record-breaking defense he coached to the 2000 Super Bowl title. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis, who retired last year after winning it all, again, was the last link.

"They broke the specialness. They put another banner up there," he said.

Marvin Lewis is wondering how the Ravens could possibly replace the pregame introduction of Ray Lewis that grew into an event by itself. Marvin Lewis would make sure the young Bengals never missed it.

"I don't know what they're going to do for introductions," Marvin Lewis said. "They'll probably do something great. (I would tell) the young players, make sure you don't miss that. It was something to see."

 

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