Updated: 4:10 p.m.
New running back Larry Johnson celebrated his 30th birthday with a quick lunch at his locker before Thursday's practice, where starting running backup Cedric Benson didn't suit up for the second straight day with a sore hip muscle.
While it's looking more and more like Benson won't play Sunday in Oakland with each practice he misses. it is still uncertain if Johnson will make his Bengals debut Sunday in Oakland and if he does, how much he'll play. He thinks he can play, but he knows it is depending on the condition of Benson's hip and how much the coaches trust him with the offense. On Wednesday offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said he thought Johnson could get some snaps in the game.
So far, so good after Wednesday's first practice. Johnson agrees that it helps he's already played against the Raiders this season. He got 78 yards on 24 carries in the Chiefs 13-10 loss in Week 2.
"I pretty much know what they are. Their philosophy and mentality never changes," Johnson said. "Their defense is really talented. It's what has kept them in a lot of games. They play tough and don't give up the big play."
Johnson says the plays are pretty much the same, he just has to get used to taking handoffs from quarterback Carson Palmer "and the exchanges were pretty good." He says the Bengals style of pass protections has helped him pick them up quicker because "they're a lot easier than I'm used to because there were so many protections in Kansas City. Here, you pretty much start from what the quarterback tells you to do." ...
Bruce Gradkowski gets the start for the Raiders at quarterback for the benched JaMarcus Russell and he and cornerback Johnathan Joseph were rookies on the field in 2006 in Tampa. That's when Gradkowski's eight-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Clayton beat Bengals cornerback Keiwan Ratliff over the middle with 35 seconds left to lift the Bucs, 14-13, in a pivotal game that dropped Cincinnati to 3-2 in a year the Bengals missed the playoffs by a game.
"We worked on that play all week, actually," Joseph said. "It was a bunch set if I remember correctly. (Clayton) went out in the flats and just came back in for the touchdown. (Gradkowski) hurt us that day getting out of pocket a little bit. He's a veteran. He's been around. We'll have to watch him. He probably has a little better feel than JaMarcus. Whoever they play, you still have to run your defense."
Joseph was limited Thursday with a toe injury, as was wide receiver Laveranues Coles (head). Left guard Evan Mathis was also limited in his first work since injuring his ankle Nov. 8 against Baltimore. Along with Benson, safety Chris Crocker and WILL linebacker Keith Rivers sat out with calf injuries. It's not believed Crocker is in danger of missing the game and head coach Marvin Lewis said Monday that Rivers is the most likely to miss the Raiders. But Benson has to be creeping into that category.