In a bizarre series of events Wednesday involving their suddenly decimated running backs room, the Bengals shelved Tra Carson and signed veteran Thomas Rawls.
Joe Mixon worked in the weight room with a sleeve covering the knee that had arthroscopic surgery on Saturday. By lunch time Giovani Bernard's backups were also 5-9 in rookie Mark Walton and the freshly-signed Rawls, both of whom have yet to play since the preseason.
With Mixon on an indefinite time table, Carson, a promising first-year player who lost his rookie season last year to injury, looked like he was going to get his most significant NFL snaps Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Carolina. Until, that is, he apparently injured his hamstring during Monday's practice. It wasn't bad enough to put him on injured reserve, but it looks like it's going to take him out a couple of weeks so the Bengals waived injured Carson and signed up the 5-9, 214-pound Rawls, a fourth-year guy with six career 100-yard career games.
Rawls is an interesting guy. He's got a 200-yard game and a 100-yard playoff game. As an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan in 2015, Rawls had five 100-yard games for the Seahawks that included a 209-yarder against San Francisco and a 169-yarder at Paul Brown Stadium when the Bengals erased his 69-yard touchdown with a fourth-quarter comeback that resulted in Cincinnati's 27-24 overtime victory. His last 100-yard game came the next season in Seattle's Wild Card win over Detroit with 161 yards.
Rawls couldn't hang on with the Jets in this last training camp and head coach Marvin Lewis said before Wednesday's practice that Rawls' frozen focus reminds him of running back Cedric Benson when the Bengals took him off the street after the Bears discarded him in 2008. Benson went on to log two 1,000-yard seasons, not to mention a 169-yard Wild Card Game. Lewis didn't rule out Rawls playing Sunday.
Mixon didn't know a timetable, although the conventional wisdom is chirping two-to-four weeks. He said Wednesday he'll only come back when he's "comfortable," and he looked relieved and rested. He said he wants to start running, but they've pulled him back so he's resorted to the bike as well as lifting.
Rookie center Billy Price also looked relieved. Since he got hurt Thursday night the Bengals have been trying to decide if it's an ankle sprain or the more serious Lisfranc injury in the mid-foot area that usually requires season-ending surgery. But Wednesday morning they settled on a foot injury. Price wouldn't divulge the diagnosis or timetable, but indicated it's not season-ending.
Lewis said they have to be careful with Mixon and Price because both are ahead of schedule but they don't want them getting back on the field before they're ready. He also said right end Michael Johnson (knee sprain) is ahead of schedule. Johnson began Wednesday's practice working with the defensive line after he was on the rehab field Monday.