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Backer depth looks to be tested


Emmanuel Lamur is carted off the field after being injured in Thursday's preseason game.

Updated: 8-30-02, 1:35 a.m.

Emmanuel Lamur's grave shoulder injury sent the Bengals for a loop in the wake of the 27-10 win over the Colts in the preseason finale at Paul Brown Stadium.

The worst fear is the club's best cover linebacker is lost for the year with what head coach Marvin Lewis indicated was a shoulder dislocation when he said, "It had slipped out, and they slipped it back in place."

But in the football world, a dislocated shoulder isn't cut and dried and it may take a while to determine if he has to sit out the year or can play with it at some point. In the past, players have played with shoulder dislocations, but not before sitting out about a month.

That would put even more stress on the roster-cutting exercise. The Bengals already have a player on the 53 that may not play Sept. 8 (left tackle Andrew Whitworth) and can't play in the opener (wide receiver Andrew Hawkins). And it certainly looks like Lamur can't play against the Bears.

The second-year Lamur, a 6-4, 240-pound "freak" to his teammates, is an explosive player that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been able to build several packages around his versatility.

Lamur's injury comes in the middle of a roster scrum between the team's highest-paid college free agent in Jayson DiManche and its steady homegrown product in J.K. Schaffer for what would be the sixth and last linebacker roster spot if Lamur is deemed healthy enough to be on the 53 come the 6 p.m. Saturday deadline.

Replacing Lamur at SAM on the second defense on the game's second series, DiManche went on to have a team-high seven tackles. Playing primarily in the middle, Schaffer had a sack and an interception.

"That's above my pay grade," Schaffer said when asked if that was enough. "I think it means something. I know I went out there and played hard. I left it all out there. It's out of my hands from here. I think the preseason went pretty well for the most part. I still have to get things cleaned up and get better at."

Now it looks like DiManche may make it because he can back up Lamur at the SAM.

The problem is that Lamur also plays WILL while being a starter in the nickel and dime pass defenses. While linebackers coach Paul Guenther has compared DiManche to Lamur in the sense they're both undrafted, smart and athletic with upside, DiManche is still transitioning from college pass rusher to NFL backer. And Guenther has been rotating everyone trying to find nickel backups, where DiManche says he hasn't received a lot of reps.

Still, there is that DiManche upside.

"E-Man can play any position and he's so smart; it's a big loss," DiManche said. "I think I've got the SAM position down pretty much. It's basically just technique things I still have to learn a little bit. That will come in time. I stepped in behind E-Man. I wasn't nervous. I knew exactly what I had to do out there."

Lamur had the luxury last season of breaking in on the practice squad until he got promoted to the roster in midseason. DiManche may not have that luxury with a battlefield promotion.

"Whatever happens, players play and coaches coach," DiManche said in his best Marvin Lewis voice. "Whatever situation I'm in, then that's the situation I'm going to play through. I'm excited about it. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be fun."

Schaffer certainly had fun Thursday. The one thing going against him is that he's seen as primarily an inside player. But he's also smart, reliable and knows the defense back and forth. Last year when he was undrafted out of the University of Cincinnati he led the Jaguars in tackles during the preseason before getting cut. Thursday's press box stats indicated Schaffer led the Bengals this preseason. His six against the Colts give him 20, two more than rookie safety Shawn Williams.

"I've been saying it all week. It's a big game. But I just need to go out and play ball. Just like what I've been doing my whole life since third grade. That's what I tried to do tonight," Schaffer said.

Schaffer, a LaSalle High School product, may be less than 48 hours away from becoming only one of a handful of men to play high school, college and pro football in Cincinnati.

"It would be a dream come true, that's for sure," Schaffer said. "I've tried not to think about it too much during the preseason because I don't want to put too much pressure on my shoulders. Just go out there and play. But now the preseason's over I can kind of start thinking about that. We'll see what happens the next few days."

But both guys were thinking about Lamur.

"I hope he's all right. He's an outstanding person and outstanding player and his team needs him," Schaffer said. "I'll be praying for Emmanuel. He's one of my favorite people in the world. I hope he's all right."

Like Lamur, DiManche's parents are from Haiti.

"We're both Haitian. He's not going to stay down for long," DiManche said. "He's tough as nails. He hurt his shoulder … I know it (stinks) today. It hurts. But I'm telling you, that man is going to come in here in a couple of days and feel a lot better."

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