Four starters could miss Jags

BY GEOFF HOBSON

NASHVILLE, Tenn. _ Bengals starters began the season dropping like flies and the end of the season has been no different with four more getting hurt Sunday in the 35-3 loss to the Titans and all could be out for this week's game against Jacksonville.

Tight end Tony McGee is out for the season with a broken left ankle he suffered with about nine minutes left in the first half. That ends the team's longest streak of 117 straight starts.

Middle linebacker Adrian Ross is definitely out for this week's game after cutting his left hand on a helmet and injuring a tendon in the game's first three minutes on a punt. He could become the fourth defensive starter out for the season because trainer Paul Sparling said Ross only has a remote chance of playing in the Dec. 24 finale. A hand specialist will be consulted first.

MRIs for right tackle Willie Anderson and cornerback Robert Bean revealed no surgical injuries, but Bean is doubtful for Jacksonville with a hyperextended knee.

Tests revealed no high left ankle sprain for Anderson, but the ankle is sprained and he's questionable. Anderson missed all of the second half and Bean missed much of the game after making the Bengals' two best plays in the secondary when he knocked away long passes at the last instant.

McGee got hurt after he caught his only pass of the day, a nine-yarder on the right sideline. He remembers carrying a tackler for a few yards and then getting his ankle rolled when another tackler hit him as he was falling to the ground.

McGee, who never talked about his streak so he wouldn't jinx it, said he's not mad about losing the mark, "I'm just mad about getting hurt."

The next two games will be only the second and third of his career. Ironically, the only game he has missed is a game during his rookie season in 1993 against the older version of the Titans in the Houston Oilers.

McGee, the team's second-leading receiver, finished tying last season's catch total with 26 during a frustrating year he thought he would get the ball more. He hasn't caught more than 38 in a season since catching a career-high 55 in 1995.

Wide receiver Darnay Scott began the march to injury reserve back on Aug. 1 when he broke his leg. Middle linebacker Brian Simmons was lost for the year in the regular-season opener with a knee cartilage tear, defensive end Vaughn Booker (knee) and cornerback Rodney Heath (shoulder) went on injured reserve after last week's game, and fullback Clif Groce has missed the last six games with a knee sprain.

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WILLIE ON KEARSE: **Anderson didn't want to talk about blocking Tennessee sackmaster Jevon Kearse during the week and here's why.

Anderson was upset with comments Kearse made after the Oct. 8 game in Cincinnati in which Kearse said he handled Anderson and that the Bengals double-teamed him all day.

"I don't know why he would say that because it wasn't true," Anderson said. "It was one-on-one. If things were going the right way, I probably would have told him, 'I heard what you said, that, 'I handled him. They double teamed me.' I didn't like that. But I didn't say anything because we were losing."

Kearse got his ninth sack of the season when Anderson was out of the game and he bull-rushed Jamain Stephens into quarterback Scott Mitchell.

Anderson got hurt late in the first half when, "We were double-teaming someone on a run block and everyone caved in over my leg and rolled up my ankle. I could have gone back in the game, if I needed to help out little bit. After I sat out I was stiff and I told them I couldn't go back in then. (Later), they told me to sit out, they would go with Jamain, and try to get healthy next week."

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WILSON ACTIVE:** Bengals defensive end Reinard Wilson thought he proved his point Sunday by getting his first two sacks of the season.

Wilson has been inactive for two games this season and when he's been active he's been barely getting 10 snaps per game on mainly passing downs.

But with Booker out for the year, Wilson rotated at right end with starter Jevon Langford Sunday. One of his sacks drilled Titans quarterback Steve McNair on the blindside, causing a fumble recovered by tackle Tom Barndt.

In the games he's dressed, Wilson, a former first-round pick, had gone 18 straight without a sack. But his argument has always been that he can't get sacks standing on the sidelines. The Bengals' argument is he didn't do much when he was on the field and they tried moving him from outside linebacker to end this season.

"That's the first time in a long time I had so many (plays) in a row," Wilson said. "It's been a long time since I had a sack. I felt I could have had one or two more, but I'd rather have the win."

Wilson said the footing on the Adelphia Coliseum field was bad and that he had McNair in his arms on another play before slipping. Before the game, workers were painting some of the field's bare spots.

THIS AND THAT: Defensive captain Takeo Spikes took the rout hard. In the game's final moments, he went after Titans backup tackle Scott Sanderson after Sanderson hit him with a late blind-side block. Both were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and the usually accommodating Spikes didn't talk to the press after the game. . .

Former Bengals receiver Carl Pickens hugged Anderson after the game and told him to get healthy.

Both live in Atlanta during the offseason and Anderson reminded him they would get together. Someone told him he came up a yard short of a touchdown on his 38-yard catch and Anderson said it was the same old joking Pickens: "He said, 'I'm still a backup. I'm not a damn backup.' He was just playing. He wished us the best. Keep our heads up." . . .

With Bean's injury, fellow rookie corner Mark Roman got plenty of quality time Sunday and looked to hold up. He'll probably get more time now because of Tom Carter's troubles. . .

Players and coaches vote for the Pro Bowl with the team being announced on Thursday. The fans account for a third of the vote and when the balloting stopped Friday Bengals running back Corey Dillon was the club's top vote-getter with about 66,000, third among AFC backs. Spikes was 12th and Anderson 24th in the AFC at their positions.

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