MINNEAPOLIS - Welcome to the Rookie Show as lame duck or not head coach Marvin Lewis handed in his inactive list for Sunday's game against old friend Mike Zimmer's Vikings.
If a pre-game report bannering Lewis' departure wasn't enough of a challenge facing the decimated 5-8 Bengals against the 10-3 Vikings, the long list of injuries hit home. Rookie middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson drew his first NFL start in a backer corps that sent three rookies into the fray, including Jordan Evans in his third start at WILL and backup Brandon Bell making his big-league debut.
Also making his NFL debut was rookie running back Jarveon Williams with rookie starter Joe Mixon (concussion) out again. He'll be behind another rookie, Brian Hill, off his first two NFL carries last week as they work behind Giovani Bernard.
Curious inactives were wide receiver Tyler Boyd and guard Christian Westerman. Boyd is their best slot receiver and has the most catches by a wide receiver with 12 behind A.J. Green and Brandon LaFell. Westerman still can't get inactive this year even though back-up guard-center T.J. Johnson went on injured reserve Saturday.
Also healthy but not playing is rookie nose tackle Josh Tupou. The other inactives are hurt: starting linebackers Vontaze Burfict and Nick Vigil and starting cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick.
Potential bad news for the young backers. Vikings Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph (ankle) was active despite not practicing last week.