The Bengals are facing another rough patch at linebacker in Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in Minnesota. On Thursday their starting linebackers remained out and are destined for the inactive list: outside linebackers Vontaze Burfict (concussion) and Nick Vigil (ankle) and middle linebacker Kevin Minter (hamstring).
That means at some point rookie Brandon Bell or third-year vet Carl Bradford comes off the practice squad to join veteran backup Vincent Rey and rookies Jordan Evans and Hardy Nickerson on the active 46 against the Vikings.
Reports surfaced that they eyed former Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga in Wednesday's on-campus visit but that's apparently all it was.
It's been tough since Burfict got concussed on a blind-side block Dec. 4 against Pittsburgh. When he left with six minutes left, the Steelers scored both times they had the ball and the next week the Bears scored six times on their first nine possessions.
Vikings Pro Bowl tight end Kyle Rudolph, who has yet to practice this week, looms as a dangerous threat to that middle of the field.
On the good side, running back Joe Mixon (concussion), cornerback Darqueze Dennard (knee), and Tyler Kroft (knee) returned limited Thursday after missing Wednesday. Running back Giovani Bernard (knee) was limited a second straight day.