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Benson eyes streak; Smith moving; Pope released

Updated: 6:30 p.m.

After sitting out Wednesday's practice with a hip issue, Bengals running back Cedric Benson said Thursday he's fine and ready to go. In fact, he says he's not even sore. He says he only gets sore after carrying it 20 or more times and he carried it 18 times Sunday in Cleveland for 74 yards.

Benson suited up for Thursday's practice as did SAM linebacker Rey Maualuga (knee), also out on Wednesday. Benson, along with safety Roy Williams (forearm) went full go while Maualuga was limited. Limited for the second straight day were defensive tackles Tank Johnson (foot) and Domata Peko (chest). Also limited was safety Chinedum Ndukwe (hamstring) after not going Wednesday. Safety Kyries Hebert (hip) surfaced for the first time Thursday on the injury report and was limited.

Also Thursday, the Bengals released cornerback Geoff Pope and filled his spot by signing rookie free-agent linebacker Dan Skuta off the practice squad. It reflects that backup linebacker Rashad Jeanty probably isn't going to play Sunday with his fractured ring finger (he sat out for the second straight day) and the Bengals need Skuta for help on special teams. Plus, cornerback David Jones will now probably be active for the first time this season after breaking his foot the first week of training camp. 

Benson has emerged from the first two division games fairly unscathed with 34 carries and without a 20-carry game. But he knows that could change pretty quickly this week against a Ravens defense that is averaging 2.6 yards per carry and hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 39 games stretching back to late 2006 or 20 straight AFC North games since the Bengals' Rudi Johnson on Nov. 27, 2005 with 114 yards on 24 carries.

The Bengals have a penchant for breaking that 100-yard streak. When Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis coordinated the Baltimore defense at the turn of the century, the Ravens had a streak of 50 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher snapped when Corey Dillon went for 127 yards on 27 carries in a Dec. 23, 2001 game. Lewis had the last laugh in a 16-0 victory for the third straight shutout of the Bengals in Baltimore.

"Those are personal goals you would love to achieve," said Benson of breaking 100 Sunday. "Do the work on the practice field in preparation of the week that you can best achieve that. I'm sure the guys are fine with us sticking with the run and it's something we're obviously working for."

And Benson wanted to know, "Who was the last 100-yard rusher?"

Kansas City's Larry Johnson on Dec. 10, 2006 with 120 yards.

It's tough to tell who's who on the practice field with Lewis continuing to dress his team in no numbers. But very visible is first-rounder Andre Smith as he rehabs his broken foot working on the sidelines with rehab specialist Nick Cosgray and strength coaches Chip Morton and Ray Oliver.

Smith looked good jogging, skipping and doing agility drills Thursday. Not to mention steamrolling Oliver back a couple of years in a drive-blocking drill. The sense on his return is still post-Nov. 1 bye with the Nov. 15 game at Pittsburgh a target as the first game of the second half of the season.

The Bengals have now worked out four long snappers in the past 48 hours after Bryan Pittman and Clark Harris visited Thursday according to various reports.

But if the Bengals do anything it won't be until after Sunday's game in Baltimore and it appears they aren't looking to go the practice squad route even though they have an opening after they promoted Skuta and cut Pope.

Pope has practice squad eligibility and could return Friday. Three of the four tryout guys, Nathan Hodel, Bryan Pittman and Ryan Neill, are veterans with plenty of experience. Hodel has spent the last seven seasons and 112 games with the Cardinals while Pittman has been in 96 games for the Texans in the past six years and both aren't eligible for the squad.

Ryan Neill, who got good reviews in Buffalo but got beat out by a younger snapper in preseason, snapped in every game for the Bills the past two seasons. The son of former Giants nose tackle Bill Neill, Neill spent the 2006 season on the practice squad and doesn't have eligibility left.

The one guy that does have practice squad eligibility is Harris, a rookie in 2008 who played four games for the Texans.

One reason the Bengals apparently haven't made a move on long snapper Brad St. Louis is punt snaps. His have been solid. If they get a guy in here that can do the short snaps but struggles with the long ones, that could be more damaging because a bad punt snap can end up in a touchdown as opposed to a missed three points or one point.

Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer came off the field Thursday (they practiced in the stadium and about half of it was in the rain) dripping and extremely impressed with the Ravens offense. He says quarterback Joe Flacco reminds him some of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and says, "He throws the ball like all the good guys, like Palmer and (Troy) Aikman and he runs around like Rodgers. Excellent arm. Throws the ball well. He doesn't look like a second-year quarterback. He's very polished. ... They've got the same offense, but they've opened it up more."

The low-slung quickness of Ravens running back Ray Rice reminds Zimmer of Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. "Shifty, cut-back guy. hard-to-tackle. Catches the ball well," Zimmer said.

Thursday in Baltimore it's looking more and more like big left tackle Jared Gaither (neck) won't go after not practicing for the second straight day. But wide receiver Derrick Mason (neck) and defensive lineman Jarret Johnson (shoulder) returned to limited action Thursday after not going Wednesday and on Thursday two of Baltimore's best players on defense, safety Ed Reed (knee) and nose tackle Haloti Ngata (shoulder) went full go.

Carson Palmer goes national Friday at 1:25 p.m. on ESPN Radio's *The Herd with Colin Cowherd, *which can be Herd on 1360-AM in Cincinnati.

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