Updated: 5:45 p.m.
The biggest news out of the Bengals camp Wednesday appeared, literally, to be a blank.
Head coach Marvin Lewis, never one to come up empty on ways to promote team unity, struck again Wednesday when his club took the practice field wearing blank jerseys instead of ones with numbers.
"It doesn't matter what your name or number is," said Lewis after walking off the practice field. "Just play football and focus. Know what your assignment is and the other team's."
Lewis thought of the idea Sunday night following the Pittsburgh victory, in which everyone from rookie free agents (Quan Cosby), traded players (Brian Leonard), first-round picks (Johnathan Joseph), street free agents (Cedric Benson) and franchise players (Carson Palmer) contributed. Lewis wouldn't say what spurred his idea, only "It's just where we are right now; what we had have left in front of us."
Equipment manager Jeff Brickner put in a rush order Tuesday morning for about 70 black and white mesh Russell jerseys and they were at Paul Brown Stadium three hours before Wednesday's 1 p.m. practice.
With Lewis preparing for his 100th regular-season game as Bengals coach, they are a continuation of his seven-year theme of unity that has met with both success and failure in his 48-50-1 run. But he has had an impact on a locker room once known for its 53-player, 53-cab mentality before he arrived in 2003.
Usually when it comes to inspirational jerseys, he confines them to the offseason, when he has become known for adorning his team with themes for the upcoming season. This year there were two, "Fight Back" and "Sacrifice." Now a wordless and numberless third theme has been added.
It has been a busy couple of days for Brickner and assistant Adam Knollman. They are preparing for Breast Cancer Awareness month in the Oct. 4 game in Cleveland and Oct. 11 game in Baltimore and the Oct. 25 Paul Brown Stadium game against the Bears.
Wide receiver Chad Ochocinco said Wednesday he won't jump into the Dawg Pound like he did two years ago after scoring a touchdown in Cleveland, but he will honor the start of breast cancer awareness month by wearing all pink. Pink shoes, pink gloves, pink chinstrap, pink mouthpiece. He said he expects to be fined and he'll donate it to breast cancer awareness.
The Ocho is one of the designated Bengals on Sunday to wear pink gloves and cleats to kick off the month. The others tentatively scheduled if they get the cleats here in time are quarterback Carson Palmer and wide receivers Laveranues Coles and Chris Henry. The NFL says it won't fine The Ocho for wearing it every game this month (the Oct. 18 home against Houston is not a BCA game), but they have already fined him for wearing the wrong color chinstrap this season and the second offense is a $10,000 hit. A player can wear any color mouthpiece, but the chinstrap doesn't fall under the BCA uniform code so the cause could be getting an exra $10,000.
In the three BCA games this month, there will be pink wristbands and quarterback towels, as well as pink ribbon decals for the helmets, and pink captain patches. All sideline personnel will have a pink hat and a matching pin. Against Chicago at PBS Oct. 25, the game starts with a kickoff that uses a pink K-Ball.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Also Wednesday, Lewis indicated that rookie SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee) will be able to play Sunday in Cleveland and that cornerback David Jones (foot) will be available for the first time this season. Neither practiced Wednesday.
Maualuga appears to have sprained his medial collateral ligament. Also out were running back Cedric Benson (kee), backup middle linebacker Abdul Hodge (knee), defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot), cornerback Johnathan Joseph (foot), safety Chinedum Ndukwe (hamstring) and right tackle Andre Smith (foot).
But Lewis said he expects most of those guys to be ready for the game. Not Smith. He's still in a walking boot and no one expects him before the Nov. 1 bye. If he's ready for the last eight games of the season (starting Nov. 15 in Pittsburgh) they would take that right now.
Jones, the nickel corner when healthy, suffered a stress fracture the first week of training camp and was limited Wednesday, as was safety Roy Williams (forearm) and defensive tackle Domata Peko (knee). Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (Achilles) went full go on a day the Browns named Derek Anderson the starting quarterback.
» Lewis said his players that have family in American Samoa have been told their relatives are OK after a tsunami killed at least 99 people on the island Tuesday following an earthquake that reached 8 on the Richter scale. Peko's family, just minutes from the scene of the biggest tidal wave, said he spent an anxious day until he got the good word and defensive lineman Jon Fanene didn't hear until 2:30 a.m. that his mother and father and four brothers and sisters were fine. But four relatives on his father's side were killed.
» It sounds like The Ocho is going to be around in 2010. He indicated Wednesday he has been approached about appearing on the television show Dancing With The Stars, but that he'll leave it up to Lewis to decide if he can do it in the offseason because of it being a possible distraction with workouts.
» One theme this week, as first suggested by offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, is the emphasis in the shift to the running game. The passer likes it.
"Our mindset is run first. Years ago, we used to be big-play first," Palmer said. "The way our defense plays now, and as well as they're holding people down to 17-20 points a game, we need to run the ball. We need to keep them off the field, keep them fresh, so they can keep attacking and keep doing what they do. We're still capable of the big plays, but we probably won't take as many chances as we used to because we have to control the clock and wear down the clock a little bit more and win games defensively sometimes, because we're capable of doing that.
"I like whatever wins. If it wins to throw the ball 50 times a game, that's great. If it wins to run the ball 50 times, I'm happy with that."