Braham starts; Perry doubtful

9-8-04, 6:55 p.m.

Center Rich Braham didn't practice Wednesday, but he'll start Sunday against the Jets even tough it's only been a week since he had arthroscopic knee surgery.

And he may have his partner at left guard in Eric Steinbach. Steinbach practiced for the first time Wednesday since he left the Aug. 28 pre-season game in Atlanta saying his surgically-repaired elbow was weak. But he said after practice that it felt stronger and feels good about playing. Backup guard-tackle Scott Kooistra (knee) is probable, but Larry Moore would start in place of Steinbach.

MORE UPDATES: Rookie backup running back Chris Perry has been downgraded to doubtful for Sunday after the club's first-round pick injured his hamstring in Friday night's preseason win over the Colts. Cornerback Terrell Roberts (groin) is probable.

The bulk of the Bengals' injuries are in the questionable category. Weak-side linebacker Brian Simmons nine days removed from arthroscopic knee surgery, is listed there and didn't practice Wednesday. Left cornerback Deltha O'Neal (ankle) did dress and worked a little, and is questionable. Tight end Matt Schobel (hamstring) worked and was hopeful after practice. Backup rookie defensive end Robert Geathers (ankle) and backup rookie right tackle Stacy Andrews (ankle) are out.

START FAST:If Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis has been harping on one thing for the past seven months, it is a quick start.

He feels last season's 0-3 start (with 10 sacks, seven turnovers and a turnover ratio of minus-2) cost them a chance at the playoffs and wants his team to look at the season as four series of four games.

"If you win every one of those, if you just lose one of them, that's pretty good," said middle linebacker Nate Webster of what would be a 12-4 record. "That sounds good to me."

(Bengals in first four games last five years)

Year 1st Month Final Record
19990-4 4-12
20000-4 4-12
20012-2 6-10
20020-4 2-14
20031-3 8-8

Lewis has no doubt reminded his players that of last season's 12 playoff teams, none of them started worse than 2-2. Half were 2-2, but 2-2 might even be tough this time around just for the fact that the Final Five pits the Bengals on the road against defending division champions Baltimore, New England, and Philadelphia.

"I think he's taken a look at the schedule and saw what we have at the end of the season," said safety Kevin Kaesviharn. "Those pretty much involve playoff teams. We don't want to do what we did last year. We lost the first three and probably should have won two of them (Oakland and Pittsburgh). And it cost us because it came down to the last game."

Lewis says the Bengals just can't tolerate those mistakes this early, reminding them how slim is the margin of error.

"We have to play better earlier this year than last year," he said. "We can't make the mistakes and errors that we had where we lined up and how we lined up. . .Our line is thin as far as plusses and minuses. Let's not spot anybody anything we don't have to."

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