Lions Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson has been nicked up with a knee issue the past few weeks and took about only half the snaps in last week's win over Cleveland.
He's practiced only limited Wednesday and Thursday, but Lions observers noted how upbeat he was after Thursday's practice and that his body language indicated he'll get a much heavier workload Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Bengals at Ford Field.
Which means two adopted brothers are set to play each other for the first time in their careers when Bengals Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green makes his Detroit debut. The workout partners have met before, but it was in the preseason.
"We're just kind of on an even level. We're just so cool now, He's like a brother, "Johnson told the Detroit scribes Thursday. "My trainer brought us together. We get a good workout there. Whether it would be on the field, in the weight room or wherever we are at. If we're just sitting there talking, just understanding his mindset and see the similarities and to be around another great player too."
Johnson worked Green's camp in South Carolina this past summer, where he also crossed paths with Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones and it sounds like Jones is going to head to Atlanta to join some of the offseason work. Johnson and Green haven't talked much this week, but if they did there's not a whole lot of trash talking or gloves getting thrown down.
"We talk about the things that are going on within the season. Everybody has their struggles. Each team has a struggle that's personal, or like I said the team. We talk about things like that more so," Johnson said.
Instead of baiting him, Johnson has challenged Green to reach the stunning success he has enjoyed during his seven seasons in the NFL.
"He had an outstanding first couple of years," Johnson said. "He might have even been in the Pro Bowl his first year or second year or something like that. I've been telling him that he has to come over and take the reins."
This is about the time Johnson took off. As he heads into his 38th NFL game at Ford Field, Green, who has been to the Pro Bowl in each of his two seasons, leads a breakdown of their first 37 games: Green has 199 catches for 2,871 yards and 22 TDs for a 14.4-yard catch average. Johnson had 150 catches for 2,438 yards and 17 touchdowns for 16.3 yards per catch before the Detroit offense found stability with quarterback Matthew Stafford.
LOOK BACK: The one time Johnson played against the Bengals, he hurt them on two big passes on Dec. 6, 2009 at Paul Brown Stadium in a Bengals victory. One was a 54-yard touchdown pass from the rookie Stafford splitting safeties Chris Crocker and Chinedum Ndukwe off a reverse and the other was a classic Johnson jump ball for 38 yards over Ndukwe and cornerback Johnathan Joseph.
Cornerback Leon Hall played in that game and everyone is looking forward to him playing Johnson. They will face each other at times, but only if Johnson lines up on Hall's side or if Johnson lines up in the slot because the Bengals don't shadow receivers.
"(Hall) has great hips. He's had good hips since he's been in the league," Johnson said. "I've played him a couple of times and he's a good transitioner in and out of reps."
INJURY UPDATE: The most serious injury for the Lions looks to be the ribs problem of running back Joique Bell and there has been talk of him playing with a flak jacket. He was limited Thursday and his absence would be an annoyance. He's the short-yardage complement to Reggie Bush with 53 carries. He looks to be the only Lion that would be questionable.
Bengals cornerback Terence Newman (hip-abdomen) was the only Bengal that didn't go full Thursday when he sat out. Since he returned to the game after missing 15 snaps in the second half last Sunday in Buffalo, the thinking is Newman will play. Newman indicated after the game the late tying 40-yard touchdown pass he allowed wasn't because of the injury.
Center Kyle Cook (shoulder) and backup defensive tackle Devon Still (back) went full Thursday after being limited Wednesday. Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis returned Thursday after missing Wednesday with an illness.