Coping without Tez; Green limited but optimistic; Bengals upbeat rest of home sked on TV

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This one comes under the heading of it's always something.

On the day wide receiver A.J. Green returned to practice in limited fashion,  it was announced that their other Pro Bowler, WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict, is out for at least the next two games after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Wednesday morning,

That takes him out of the next two games, both at Paul Brown Stadium against the Jaguars on Nov. 2 and the Browns on Nov. 6. Given that the next game is Nov. 16 in New Orleans just 18 days after the scope makes it a tough call, but head coach Marvin Lewis says he has a chance to play against the Saints.

Lewis said at his Wednesday's news conference that Burfict's foot got trapped when he was blocked on Sunday's first series in the win over the Ravens. Lewis indicated an MRI showed floating cartilage that they want to make sure does not go into the joint after what was initially thought to be a bruise.

It's been an extremely tough year for Burfict after he made his first Pro Bowl last season. The man they call the quarterback of the defense has missed two games and parts of two others with concussions and as well as the last three quarters of the game in Indianapolis with a neck injury.

Vincent Rey is already playing in place of injured middle linebacker Rey Maualuga. It could mean sixth-round pick Marquis Flowers gets his first NFL start in Burfict's spot in base personnel. He took three of the snaps Sunday when Burfict missed five plays.

The Burfict injury means more snaps for Vinnie Rey because he'll take Burfict's spot in the nickel package.

It's also been a tough run for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, who has spent his first season in the job coping without his leader more than having him in the lineup. And the linebackers corps he coached the previous two season has been decimated. His starting unit has yet to finish a game and in Sunday's eighth game he'll start his fifth different combination of backers.

"I told somebody today I said it's been a hell of a first year, I'll tell you that," Guenther said after practice. "Really, for seven games _ the year isn't over. But that's part of the job. It's not always going to be status quo. If you're lucky, you get all your guys for the whole season. We haven't had too many guys the last couple years going down like this, so you've just got to make sure your guys are prepared, you put them in the right positions during the week so when the game comes on Sunday, they understand what to do." With Maualuga shelved, he's moving on with very little experience. Second-year man Jason DiManche got his first NFL start two weeks ago during the 27-0 loss to Indianapolis, a game where Flowers played 46 of his 51 career snaps.

"He's doing good. He's a little baptism by fire," Guenther said. "He got in there against Indy some and last week he got in there. So he's got his feet wet so he should know what to expect as far as the speed and the tempo of the game. So he'll be a guy that helps us out."

Like Guenther reiterated Wednesday, Burfict is an extension of him on the field. So Vinny Rey, who wears the backup radio helmet on defense, gets the main one. Lamur, who hasn't worn it since the Patriots' no huddle attack, may get the backup again. Guenther is relying on his multiple approach to teaching the position.

"It's not like I'm only a strong-side linebacker, I'm only a weak-side linebacker, I'm only a nickel linebacker. They've got to know all the spots, obviously," Guenther said. "They have to know the running game and the passing game so it helps out. And the way I teach it anyway is the way I've taught the linebackers and the defense in general, is to understand where everything fits. That's an advantage of teaching it that way from the beginning."

Green is hopeful but not sure how his big toe is going to respond after practicing for the first time since he re-aggravated it warming up for the Oct. 8 practice three weeks ago.

He did say if he's cleared to play, it won't be in limited fashion. And he doesn't want to wait until the back end of this four-day stretch of two games.

"If I'm healthy, I'm playing,' he said before practice. "If I'm playing, I'm playing all the snaps. If I'm going, I'm going."

Green went through the first part of practice with no visible problems. He's wearing a new shoe, but he says it doesn't make a difference. It's the tape job that matters. He said the hardest thing is the day-to-day aspect of the injury.

"It is tough, because sometimes you don't know how it feels," Green said. "Some days it feels good sometimes it doesn't. It's just about managing it."

After practice, he was optimistic but cautious after he did only individual drills and some routes.

"I'm just going to go day-by-day and do a little more tomorrow. I think I'll be fine, but we'll just take it day-by-day," Green said. "I have to take care of my body. I have a long career ahead of me. I don't want anything serious lingering when I can just rest it to make it feel better."

What it comes down to is rest. They'll be plenty in the offseason and that should put the toe at 100 percent. Until then, with no bye and nine games left, it's unknown if he'll get enough rest to prevent him from re-aggravating it.

 "I don't pay attention to that stuff, I just go out and play," Green said. "If it happens it happens. I don't wonder about stuff like this."

HOPEFUL ON THRESHOLD:

The Bengals look like they're going to end up putting all their Paul Brown Stadium games this season on local television.

Indicating that Sunday's 1 p.m. kickoff against Jacksonville is the last home game in jeopardy of being  blacked out, Bengals ticket sales manager Andrew Brown said Wednesday that the club is in "a decent spot," to reach the 85-percent threshold that triggers the broadcast anchored  by Cincinnati's Channel 12.

"We feel pretty good about getting there for tomorrow," said Brown of the 72-hour deadline. "Looking at things earlier in the offseason, you could easily identify this as a game that would need some help. So we were able to get out in front of things and start pushing things to Jacksonville. So we're in a decent spot."

Brown pointed to ticket package offerings as well as last Sunday's victory over the Ravens that vaulted the club back into first place in the AFC North as factors. He also said the Thursday night game in eight days against Cleveland (8:25-Cincinnati's Channel 12 and NFL Network) "looks very good."

"We funneled some groups toward that direction (of Jacksonville)," Brown said. "We got off to the great start, which helped sales for a stretch before the few weeks before last week kind of stalled things a little. But we're back on the right track and it has been a productive week of sales as we work to get this next game across the threshold."

Good seats on all three levels remain by calling the Bengals Ticket Hotline during business hours at 513-621-8383 or toll free at 866-621-8383. Tickets also can be purchased at any time through Bengals.com.

 ROLL CALL: Running back Giovani Bernard (hip and shoulder), defensive tackle Domata Peko (toe), and right guard Kevin Zeitler (calf), who were hurt Sunday, didn't practice Wednesdsay. Also not practicing was rookie cornerback Darqueze Dennard (hamstring). Tight end Tyler Eifert (elbow), eligible to play a week from Thursday night, doesn't look like he'll be ready as he went to the rehab field. Maualuga (hamstring) was on the field stretching but not practicing and it looks like he'll be a scratch for the third straight game.

Left tackle Andrew Whitworth took his veteran's day Wednesday when he was up all night welcoming his fourth child into the world. Katherine's arrival didn't prevent him from going to PBS earlier in the day to go through installation of the game plan. Left end Carlos Dunlap (illness) also didn't work.

Defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee) went full go Wedneseday. He did last Wednesday and Thursday before it got sore and they inactivated him for Sunday. Cornerback Terence Newman (back) and right tackle Andre Smith (knee) were limited.

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