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Houshmandzadeh cleared

Posted: 12:50 p.m.



Right guard Stacy Andrews' juices were flowing so quickly Thursday night in anticipation of his first NFL start that he admitted that he had to call his "little brother Shawn" in order to settle down.

With the 6-4, 340-pound Shawn offering some big advice at night and Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson adding some of his own during the day, Andrews and his three years of seasoning probably make him better prepared for his regular-season debut than any Bengals lineman in recent memory.

"(Anderson) and I have been talking constantly," said Andrews before Friday's practice. "We get grade sheets after every game and I'm just looking to get a very high grade, focusing on my technique and footwork."

Another you-just-never-know NFL lesson played out again Wednesday.

Andrews has spent three years of countless practices, 12 preseason games, regular special teams work and an occasional snap at tight end on short-yardage and goal-line situations, and has never received the call. It's tough when the right tackle you back up is about to make his 106th straight start and the right guard you back up is believed to have missed all but one snap since Andrews arrived in 2004.

But at practice Wednesday, right guard Bobbie Williams, who doesn't miss any snaps in practice, either, suddenly called for the trainer, and Andrews was just as suddenly getting in a stance. Word later filtered through that Williams had an appendectomy, which should take him out of the next three games.

"I was shocked, but I've had experience starting in the preseason and I've practiced a lot," Andrews said. "It's more of a matter mentally. After today's practice, I'm going to go through the playbook again and visualize what I have to do."

This isn't exactly a throw-away preseason finale in Indy where the Colts play 0.5 starters. The Saints have one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL and his foe, 6-2, 298-pound Brian Young, is second in the league among defensive tackles with 4.5 sacks.

Throw in the din of the Louisiana Superdome and who said it was going to be easy? Andrews thinks he caught a break this week with head coach Marvin Lewis moving practice into Paul Brown Stadium instead of holding it across the street on the practice fields.

At either place, Lewis jacks up recorded crowd noise to simulate what the offense is going to face.

"It's louder in the stadium because the noise surrounds you," Andrews said. "They've got two loudspeakers (at the practice field), but it's not as loud as inside."

INJURY UPDATE: Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (concussion) was cleared Friday morning to appear on the field and he looks ready for Sunday. Running back Rudi Johnson (thigh) and middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks (groin), who didn't practice Thursday but were probable, appeared on the field early indicating they could be ready. Strong safety Dexter Jackson (Achilles), rated as questionable, also appeared early on the field.



SPECIAL PROBLEMS: The injuries have played havoc with special teams coach Darrin Simmons. It's why Chris Perry has been forced to return kicks for the first time in his life this season, no doubt a factor in his killing fumble against Baltimore, the first Bengals turnover on special teams in three years since Peter Warrick fumbled a punt against, of course, Baltimore.

Then last week Keiwan Ratliff, who got his job back when Antonio Chatman went on injured reserve, fumbled a punt but it was alertly recovered by cornerback Johnathan Joseph. That was after Simmons replaced Ratliff with Deltha O'Neal and he got off a tantalizing promising return of 10 yards before he hurt his shoulder from scrimmage.

Believe him. He's trying to find somebody who can do something more than Ratliff's 6.4 yards per return.

"We just haven't been able to get into any kind of a flow, but we can't use it for an excuse," Simmons said.

With O'Neal questionable, that would apear to take him out of the mix. Simmons could go to Houshmandzadeh, but he's just coming off a concussion.

"I would think it's something we have to talk about when it comes to Deltha," Simmons said. "Somebody has to play."

Still, despite it all, the Bengals are second covering punts and fell to fifth covering kicks after they had a tough time dealing with San Diego's Michael Turner.

And Simmons needs them now. Even though the Saints returners have nowhere near the numbers of Atlanta's top five returns in punts and kicks (the Saints are 18th in punt return with Reggie Bush and 22nd in kick returns with Michael Lewis), he says they are as dangerous as the Falcons.

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