BRAHAM EYES RAVENS: Bengals center Rich Braham, sidelined since the third game of the season, is looking to return for the Nov. 5 home game against Baltimore.
Braham, who had arthroscopic surgery to drain his knee, plans to begin individual work next week and gradually work his way into practice. If the swelling and pain stemming from the removal of his bursa sack in training camp flares up again, he'll have season-ending surgery.
"So far, so good," Braham said Thursday. "But they haven't let me run on it. It's held up on the stair master and when I run in the pool, but that's a lot different than out here. If that goes well, I'm back."
Offensive line coach Paul Alexander has received competent play from backup Brock Gutierrez, but Braham's injury has to be one of the factors for the Bengals' inability to run the ball this season.
"Rich Braham is a hell of a center and the center in the running game in our system is probably the most important lineman there is," Alexander said. "Darrick Brilz (the center during running back Corey Dillon's rookie year) was effective at the point of attack. Braham is very good at the point of attack."
SPEARMAN STARTS: If rookie middle linebacker Armegis Spearman's shoulder is healed up, he'll start against the Broncos. But that's not to say the Bengals weren't pleased with the play of Adrian Ross in the middle the last two weeks.
"(The linebackers) have a policy," Ross said. "You can't lose a job because of injury. I think the two of us are showing we can play there."
Linebackers coach Mark Duffner agrees. The loss of middle linebacker Brian Simmons hasn't been good, but Ross and Spearman have for the most part plugged the leak and kept the linebackers as the soundest and best players on defense so far this season.
"If Armegis is healthy, he'll go," Duffner said. "But Ross is going to play some. I feel like both these guys can play the middle for us. It's really going to come down to production and who's doing the best when deciding who is going to start and in my mind, that's healthy."
BOOKER POISED: DE Vaughn Booker (knee) has practiced the last two days and looks ready to make his debut under coach Dick LeBeau . If Booker, injured the week before Bruce Coslet resigned, ends up starting left end, it will be LeBeau's fifth switch in the starting lineup. But Booker is looking at only playing in 20-25 snaps.