With Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict ruled out of Sunday's game in Tampa (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12), the question now becomes if he'll be ready for the Dec. 7 game against the Steelers. It is the fifth straight game Burfict has missed since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Oct. 29, but head coach Marvin Lewis won't say he's behind schedule. He also doesn't know if he'll play next week.
"He's progressing really well," Lewis said. "When he proves he's on schedule, he'll be on schedule."
Backup defensive end Margus Hunt (ankle), who missed his sixth straight practice since his Nov. 16 injury in New Orleans, has also been ruled out, so he figures to join Burfict on Sunday's inactive list. Backup guard-tackle Jamon Meredith, signed Tuesday, also figures to join the seven-man list, as does cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris and running back Rex Burkhead. If they decide to keep five wide receivers active, Greg Little could possibly be inactive for the third straight game
Or, they could go with only four receivers, as they did last week, and also shelve wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher. Figure with right tackle Andre Smith out and Meredith just getting acclimated, they could keep second-year backup guard-tackle Tanner Hawkinson active and not suit backup guard center T.J. Johnson.
The only questionable player for the Bengals is backup middle linebacker Nico Johnson after he missed the last two practices with an illness. The rest are probable, headed by starting safety George Iloka (groin) and backup defensive lineman Robert Geathers (toe). They were limited earlier in the week, but went full Friday. Little went full Friday after missing Thursday with an illness.
WEATHER CHECK: As if we need it. According to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, Ohio, there's no chance of rain Sunday in Tampa under sunny skies, a 10 mile-per-hour wind out of the northeast, and a game-time temperature of 75 degrees projected to drop to the low 70s during the game.