11-17-01, 6:10 p.m. Updated:
11-18-01, 9:50 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
After undergoing an appendectomy Saturday, Bengals tight end Marco Battaglia is out for the rest of the season. Before Sunday's game, the Bengals put him on the reserve/non-football injury list, ending his sixth season in doubt because he's not signed for next year.
The club has signed tight end Kirk McMullen from the practice squad to take Battaglia's spot. Battaglia, who has 13 catches for 118 yards this season, is going to miss the first game of his 88-game career after being stricken in the middle of the night.
Battaglia had one start this season and has played mainly in double tight-end sets. The Bengals are hoping their depth at running back and receiver can get them through his absence with McMullen and starter Tony McGee. Long snapper Brad St. Louis pretty
much plays only on short yardage.
They also hope to activate fullback Nick Williams off the physically unable to perform (PUP) list in the next week or two and he can fill Battaglia's H-Back role that has fullback and tight-end responsibilities. The biggest impact Battaglia's illness probably has for Sunday's game is on short-yardage plays.
The Bengals could go with six wide receivers, but won't make a call on Chad Johnson (collarbone) until near game time.
McMullen, a first-year player from Pittsburgh, has been with the Bengals since Dec. 26 of last year after getting cut by the Chiefs. He makes his NFL debut after playing in all four preseason games and had a 19-yard reception. He was waived Sept. 2, has been on the practice squad since Sept. 3, and signed a three-year deal Saturday.