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Notes: Playing to win; Changes bubble; Nugent full go; Geno loses sack

Posted Dec 26, 2012

Updated: 6:10 p.m.

Both head coaches, Marvin Lewis of the Bengals and John Harbaugh of the Ravens, say they're playing to win Sunday's 1 p.m. season finale at Paul Brown Stadium that still has tickets remaining.

It is the second straight year both are closing the season at PBS, but last year's 24-16 victory pulled off by the Ravens came under much different circumstances. The Bengals had to win to make the playoffs and got help to get in while the Ravens had to win to remain AFC North champs. Now, both have already clinched with the Ravens taking the AFC North and the Bengals securing the No. 6 seed.

But Lewis wants to keep the momentum of a 6-1 run and Harbaugh wants to carry over the momentum of last Sunday's big win over the Giants that stopped a losing streak.

"It’s the first time we haven’t really had, I guess, significant things to play for," Harbaugh said in his conference call with the Cincinnati media. "The approach right now is business as usual. Our approach is to compete and win the game. There’s really not a lot you can do with a 46-man roster and a 53-man roster. We’ll just have to see how it goes with injuries and things like that. Our intention is to do everything we can; play as well as we can against a great Bengals team."

But Harbaugh already has a slew of starters out and he has to think about injuries.

"It’s got to be a consideration. We’ve just had so many injuries and we’re still battling back from a number of those right now," said Harbaugh, expected to get back middle linebacker Ray Lewis for the playoffs. "We’ll have to take that into consideration."

SKED CHANGE: Lewis saw his team physically do a number on the Steelers last Sunday at Heinz Field. Tight end Heath Miller tore his ACL, backup running back Baron Batch broke an arm, backup cornerback Curtis Brown strained his Achilles, wide receiver Mike Wallace hurt a hamstring, and center Maurkice Pouncey sprained his knee. Lewis said the Bengals have some players that are sore, but he didn't think there was anything major.

He likes how his team has stayed fresh physically, but he says it's as much a mental game this point in the season. Lewis changed up things on his players Wednesday, and in order to beat the winter storm he bussed them up the road to the University of Cincinnati's bubble to get them out of the elements.

"We're trying to do a good job of keeping them fresh. They have to keep themselves fresh mentally, too. Because as I change and alter things, they have to understand that it is changed, it is altered and what we take off them physically, they have to add back mentally," Lewis said Wednesday before getting on the bus. "Everybody has to understand that. As a coach, as a position coach, a coordinator, you can't keep doing the same things you've been doing because I'm changing the schedule. Tighten things up here, so we have to add to it down the line cerebrally, and make those adjustments.

"So if you're a player used to breaking the meeting at this particular time, it's not going to break at this time. So don't be looking around and getting antsy because what we're taking off you on the field we're adding in the classroom. I think guys have to understand that. I've tried to make that point over the last couple of weeks. If you want to go to the end, you've got to go to the end. It takes special people and a special toughness in order to do that. I thought we did a great job of that last week and we have to keep doing it each and every week because each and every week presents a new problem."

Pool reporter Paul Dehner, Jr., of CBS Sports reported from the bubble that everyone is at practice and that includes WILL backer Vontaze Burfict and kicker Mike Nugent. Burfict hurt his wrist on last Sunday's final series, underwent tests, and is fine. Nugent, who has missed the last three games with a kicking calf injury, was seen kicking the length of an extra point. He was later reported as full go for the first time since he got injured Dec. 6.

Limited were cornerbacks Terence Newman, Adam Jones and Jason Allen with hamstring issues, as well as safety Reggie Nelson (shoulder).

As to be expected, the move indoors was pretty popular with the players as freezing rain and later snow pelted Paul Brown Stadium during Wednesday afternoon. Punter Kevin Huber certainly enjoyed it and the UC product celebrated his return to Clifton by banging a couple off the roof.

"You don’t want to adjust to a lower ceiling and try to keep it lower. That’s just going to screw you up for being outside," Huber said. "If I do kick some inside, I’m going to kick normal balls and if it hits the ceiling, it hits the ceiling.

"I just tapped a couple. I didn’t really do any full approach ones. I just wanted to get my leg going a little bit."

Nugent and Josh Brown, the man that has replaced Nugent, were able to kick field goals. With the forecast calling for a sunny 28 degrees Thursday, Huber figures he'll get some punts outside.

"Wherever you can, get a true punt," said Huber, who delivered his biggest game as a pro last Sunday in Pittsburgh. "It seemed like our guys did a pretty good job, got in a good, crisp practice. It’s not really the easiest thing leaving your comfort zone and going somewhere else for practice. When it comes down to it, it’s a 100-yard field."

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth, who had been on the buses that went the half-hour north to Mason, Ohio in years past to work indoors, didn't think the 10-minute bus trip upset the team's routine.

"The day is kind of the same other than just getting on a bus. I did it in college. It doesn't change much," Whitworth said. "I don't think that’s a big difference as much as it is just getting to go inside and throw the football and run the football and make cuts and you don’t have to worry about falling down or being in the ice or wind or wherever every single day. Sometimes in practice you're trying to work against looks and it's hard to get the speed of the looks when everybody is worried about their footing or the conditions."

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Elias Sports Bureau Giveth and Taketh away. Defensive tackle Geno Atkins ended up splitting one of his 2.5 sacks with right end Wallace Gilberry, giving him two on the day and 12.5 on the year. Gilberry now has 5.5, four behind second place Michael Johnson's 9.5.

» Wide receiver A.J. Green's 116 receiving yards against the Steelers marked just the fourth 100-yard day against Pittsburgh under Marvin Lewis. Chad Johnson had 117 in 2003, Chris Henry had 124 in 2006, and Terrell Owens had 141 in 2010.

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