Updated: 6:10 p.m.
HenryNow that Chris Henry is back, T.J. Houshmandzadeh is hoping he'll bring the swashbuckling Bengals with him.
"I think the aspect it will help us in is that I think the coaches just might open up the play-calling a little more," Houshmandzadeh said after Wednesday's practice. "In that aspect it well help us. I don't want to say (the coaches have been) tight. But a little different."
With defenses hanging on Houshmandzadeh and Chad Johnson, the Bengals have just three passes of more than 24 yards to wide receivers in the last three games and one in the last two.
"Hopefully we can just open it up a little more," Houshmandzadeh said. "We make some plays and we'll be able to run the ball, and once you're able to run the ball ... for some odd reason, I don't know why, in the NFL coaches don't want to lose by the run. It's not a manly thing, or you can't lose with the run, so hopefully we'll be able to run the ball effectively and they'll try to stop that."
Asked if the Bengals should be taking more shots downfield, Houshmandzadeh, who has one catch longer than 19 yards the last three weeks, said candidly, "Me, personally? Of course.
"But I can't sit here and debate and complain about that when (the coaches) put all the work in for tendencies and that's why they call what they call."
He may be getting his wish. All three receivers have had their way with Baltimore and Houshmandzadeh and Johnson put 332 yards on the Ravens by themselves the year before Henry arrived. Seven of Johnson's 44 touchdowns are against Baltimore. Houshmandzadeh has had two straight 100-yard games against the Ravens as well a career-high 171 and a 147-yarder. Henry is averaging 18.6 yards per throw against the Ravens.
Bengals offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski looks at the tape of how the Jets took away Johnson and Houshmandzadeh last month and has to believe that Henry would have had a field day.
Bratkowski"What the Jets did to us, they never could have done if Chris had been over there," Bratkowski said of the side opposite Johnson and Houshmandzadeh. "Because they left that one guy one-on-one the entire day and I would have thought that if Chris had played he would have eaten them up."
Bratkowski said the Bengals plan to use Henry on Sunday even though the Bengals receiver is in just his third week of practice as he ends his eight-game suspension, but Bratkowski's not sure how much.
"He found out a little bit today his conditioning level isn't exactly where it needs to be," Bratkowski said. "There's only one way to do that, and that's play football. He can run all the drills, but actually playing is the thing. I told him he's looked better at every practice."
Henry said Wednesday was the first time he's worked with quarterback Carson Palmer but he doesn't expect there to be a problem with timing.
"I'm a little rusty, but I'm working my way back into it," Henry said. "That will only take a couple days."
Does he matter? In the 11 games Henry has missed since the 2006 season because of discipline, the Bengals have averaged 22 points. In the 13 games he played in '06, they've averaged a field goal more at 25.4.
"It's what I do; score touchdowns," Henry said after practice. "I've got a knack."
Enough of a knack that he has scored 15 career touchdowns on his 67 catches. Bengals cornerback Johnathan Joseph, draped on the Patriots' Randy Moss while he scored a red-zone touchdown back on Oct. 1, sees the similarities.
"He's 6-5, great hands, can run and jump," Joseph said. "Yeah, a lot like Moss."
Henry said "it was killing me" not to be on the field with his teammates. Palmer, who has been his biggest supporter, said he saw a changed Henry in training camp.
"He's on a short leash and he knows that," Palmer said. "He's had to change a lot of things, changed a lot of things in his life, and has done a phenomenal job. He loves football so much, and he's so competitive. It was so hard for him to be standing around for eight games and watching games on TV on the road and watching from the sidelines at home. It just tore a hole in his heart, and I think he's really realized how much he loves football."
Johnson CHAD BACK: Wide receiver Chad Johnson practiced Wednesday less than 72 hours after suffering a frightening strained neck in Buffalo. Asked if he'll play Sunday, Johnson said, "It's Baltimore week. Someone is going to pay for me getting hit."
It looks like Johnson is determined not to end his consecutive games played streak at 95. He was listed as limited in practice, as was defensive tackle John Thornton (neck) and linebacker Rashad Jeanty (knee).
"Chad looked great," Palmer said. "He ran around, caught a bunch of balls, was going full speed and looked good. Hopefully he keeps feeling good and looks good for Sunday."
Houshmandzadeh, however, was not dressed but apparently just resting his knee. Safety Herana-Daze Jones (knee) and cornerback Deltha O'Neal (knee) also didn't go.
The Bengals placed middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks on season-ending injured reserve with his torn groin Wednesday, ending one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Bengals history after 1.1 games. The Bengals had hopes that Brooks' athleticism would be an answer to the loss of Odell Thurman.
But right now he's just one of eight men to start at middle linebacker for Marvin Lewis in his five seasons as Bengals head coach.
"Ghost of Takeo?" asked Lewis of the tough luck at that spot, referring to Takeo Spikes and Lewis' decision to let him go to the Bills in free agency weeks after he arrived as coach before the 2003 season.
Anthony Schlegel, the incumbent middle backer, didn't practice with a back problem and Lewis said weakside backer Landon Johnson moved to the middle, the spot he played as a rookie in 2004. Backup middle linebacker Caleb Miller (back), who has missed the last six games, didn't practice Wednesday.
Brooks' roster spot was taken by tight end Nate Lawrie, up from the practice squad, so there is concern that starting tight end Reggie Kelly (knee) can't go after he didn't practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Skyler Green and tight end Cooper Wallace were added to the practice squad.
Right tackle Willie Anderson (knee) won't go again Sunday, but he may be back next week.
Running back Chris Perry was back practicing for the first time this season. Starting Wednesday the Bengals now have a three-week window in which to activate Perry, place him on season-ending injured reserve, or release him.
It was the first time Perry had been on the field in 346 days since he dislocated his ankle in Cleveland.
"I'm rusty. It felt good, but I won't be able to come back in a couple of days," he said.
As miserable as quarterback Steve McNair played Monday night in Pittsburgh, Ravens head coach Brian Billick endorsed him just as much Wednesday in a conference call with the Cincinnati media.
Billick noted that McNair, off an NFL-record low 63 yards passing against the Steelers, is just getting back from a three-week layoff.
"I don't think Steve is the problem," Billick said. "He's fresh now. His arm is fresh He's mobile as he's going to be. He just has to get back in rhythm and we have to help him get back into rhythm."
Billick also said he hopes Pro Bowl cornerback Chris McAlister can play Sunday after both starting corners missed Monday night. Samari Rolle has already been ruled out with an illness and McAlister (knee) was limited Wednesday.
The Ravens were still hurting from the 38-7 shellacking in Pittsburgh. Linebacker Terrell Suggs (knee) and tight end Daniel Wilcox (foot) didn't work and another corner, David Pittman (head) was also limited. So were safety Ed Reed (head/neck) and tight end Todd Heap (thigh).