Groce won't play

BY GEOFF HOBSON

CLEVELAND _ The Bengals bid to establish a running game for the second straight week took a blow even before Sunday's game against the Browns started.

Fullback Clif Groce, Corey Dillon's lead blocker, was put on the inactive list with a sore knee. Groce, a key figure in Dillon's record-setting 278-yard day last week against Denver, didn't practice at all this week after trying to run on it before Thursday's workout.

Which means second-year fullback Nick Williams could get his first NFL start. But Steve Bush, the third tight end, could also start at fullback because he can block out of that spot.

Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Anderson could also choose to play much of the time with Dillon alone in the backfield behind a double tight-end set of Tony McGee and Marco Battaglia.

The Bengals can run the same plays out of a one-back set, but the blocks are harder to execute without a lead blocker.

The Bengals also inactivated defensive tackle Tom Barndt for the second straight. After 92 starts at end, John Copeland makes his second straight start at tackle.

"It was tough for about the first quarter and a half," said Copeland of his tackle debut last week. "The biggest change is everything happens so much quicker because you're closer to the ball."

Rookie cornerback Mark Roman didn't dress for the third straight game with fellow rookie corner Robert Bean getting the nod again in the dime package and special teams.

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