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Johnson could go in limited role; Raiders bench Russell

Larry Johnson takes part in his first Bengals practice on Wednesday. (Bengals photo)

Updated: 6 p.m.

Running back Cedric Benson didn't practice Wednesday with the hip abductor strain he's been fighting since the end of the Baltimore game earlier this month, but he reiterated what he said Tuesday about healing fast and that it's not a major injury.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski said after seeing former Chiefs running back Larry Johnson work for the first time in Wednesday's practice that he could play some Sunday in Oakland if Benson can't go. The Bengals don't want to fool much with the specific roles of backups Bernard Scott and Brian Leonard.

Also Wednesday, Raiders coach Tom Cable benched JaMarcus Russell for the Bengals and is going with Bruce Gradkowski, the journeyman that famously beat Cincinnati while with Tampa Bay in 2006 with a last-minute touchdown drive, 14-13. It is just one of three wins Gradkowski has in 12 NFL starts and came courtesy of a controversial roughing-the-passer call on Bengals end Justin Smith on a sack in that last drive that would have given the Bengals a 13-7 win in a year they missed the playoffs by a game.

"I think he could go in for some limited stuff," Bratkowski said of Johnson. "If Ced can't go, you're left with two halfbacks and neither one of those guys has been a guy (this year) that goes in and gets 25 carries. Larry would give you the emergency to spell them so the carries would get evened out and nobody would get overloaded."

But Bratkowski said if Benson's healthy, then his understanding is that Johnson is inactive.

If Johnson does make his Bengals debut Sunday, the Raiders wouldn't be a bad foe. Since he's played them twice a year with the Chiefs, his 938 yards against Oakland are his most against any team for an average of nearly 94 yards per game. He had 78 yards against the Raiders back on Sept. 20 in the Chiefs 13-10 loss. Five of his 30 career 100-yard games have also come against Oakland, tied with Denver for the most.

Although Johnson's numbers have been severely down since his back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons in 2005 and 2006, Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said Wednesday he still has it.

"He's got a little bit of everything in him. He can be power if he wants; he can be finesse," said Asomugha in a conference call with the Cincinnati media. "He's a smart player; he knows when to take on a guy and when to try to out-run him. He's also a patient back, which has really helped him out in the past.

"He's still that patient runner; if you give him an inch, he'll take a mile. You can't let him breathe really when he gets the ball. He's been a good player the last few years, just as much as he was in '05."

Asomugha, who Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco calls the NFL's best corner, says the Raiders are used to getting a guy in his debut. Although Johnson is the kind of "renegade" the Raiders used to be known for grabbing, Asomugha didn't think it would happen.

"I guess you could say in the past it is something we've done, but I don't think there was any chance we were going to get Larry," he said. "But I do know that players usually make their comebacks against us; a player that we played before, if he signs somewhere else, it always turns out be the Raiders that he's playing against, so that's been interesting." 

Benson was asked before the workout if it is his impression that as long as he's healthy he's the No. 1 guy.

"Yeah, it's like in most cases. You hold your own fate in your own hands," Benson said. "I'm not letting up in any aspect of what I do. I would imagine that I'd continue to be the first guy and if not, I'll make it that way."

If the media wanted Benson doing cartwheels over the Johnson move, it was disappointed. He kept to his character of never sugarcoating his answers. Ask a question and he'll never give a politician's answer. Benson will always be as straightforward as one of his runs.

"Oh, I didn't know I was supposed to be jumping out of my seat or anything," he said with a smile. "I really have no feelings about it. They made a move they felt they needed to do, and that's fine with me; whatever decisions they make in that area. It's not going to affect me in any kind of way. Whatever happens from here on, I can guarantee you I'll definitely be making the best of it. I don't think anything of it or what's going to come about it."

Asked about Lewis' assurance he was still No. 1, Benson seemed to be a realist about it all. After all, Benson saw strange things happen in Chicago when he was the fourth pick in the draft and still had trouble getting on the field.

"I appreciated it," he said of the talk with Lewis. "But in all due respect, this is a business. Not that I expect anything. It is a business, and sometimes things can happen in strange ways."

Bratkowski said from what he understands the situation is totally dependent on Benson's health. On Tuesday, Benson said the injury will take no more than a game to heal, if that. Bratkowski said when Benson can go, the Bengals will give more carries to Scott and Leonard to lighten his load with the thinking that Johnson will be inactive.

"We've got to get (Benson) spelled in there and he'll be spelled with Brian and B-Scott," Bratkowski said. "When Ced's up and going we've got to spell Ced. It's obvious the wear and tear had a little affect on him so we'll spell him with Brian and Bernard." 

With Benson in sweats, Johnson, wearing No. 27, stood in line behind Scott and Leonard for handoffs and passes. At 6-1, with a linear running look, running backs coach Jim Anderson compares Johnson in stature to Harold Green, the Bengals Pro Bowler from 1992.


» And it sounds like the Bengals would also be open to upgrading their wide receiver corps. Bratkowski was the Seahawks offensive coordinator in 1995 when Seattle made Joey Galloway the eighth pick in the draft. Bratkowski said Galloway's reps called him when Chris Henry went down for the year 10 days ago against Baltimore, and the Bengals brought him in for a tryout Tuesday, three days before his 38th birthday. They won't sign him this week, but...

"Obviously losing Chris we lost a playmaker," Bratkowski said. "We'll see how the guys do this weekend ... see how things unfold and how they play this week. We wanted to see where he was and in what condition he was in." Pure poker player, Bratkowski wouldn't divulge what he saw. 

» Scott weas named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his 96-yard kick return in Pittsburgh. He's not only the third Bengal to win a league honor this season (Carson Palmer was AFC Offensive Player of the Week and Antwan Odom AFC Defensive Player of the Week), but he's the third Abilene Christian product to score on a kick return the past two years, joining the Bears' Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox.

"I think it's just a lot of hungry players that want to show whenever they get a chance, they can make the best out of it," said Scott, who got a congratulatory call from Manning after the game.

Scott also matched Tab Perry's AFC Special Teams Player of the Week award from 2005, the last time a Bengal got the award. Perry, like Scott, a sixth-rounder, broke a 94-yard kick return in Pittsburgh to answer a Steelers score in a Bengals victory.

» Also not practicing were safety Chris Crocker (calf) and WILL linebacker Keith Rivers (calf). Lewis has said Rivers is the least likely to play Sunday. Left guard Evan Mathis (ankle) returned to the field dressed for the first time since getting hurt in the Baltimore game 10 days ago, but he didn't practice. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph (foot) was limited and fullback Jeremi Johnson (chest) went full go.

» Ochocinco is going to try and complete a scientific first by jumping into a black hole and coming back out. He says he'll jump into the stands at the Oakland Coliseum if he scores, a spot warmly referred to as "The Black Hole."

» The Ocho says there is no question Asomugha is the best corner in the league and "I know my corners." He doesn't understand how the Raiders are going to play the Bengals one-on-one, but he says they'll probably try. It's going to be Ochocinco and Asomugha all day and The Ocho says, "It's going to be a long day for him."

» An upbeat Chris Henry appeared in the locker room Wednesday for the first time since he had surgery to repair his broken left forearm suffered in the Nov. 8 win over Baltimore. He said he's got six more weeks in the big cast and then another month in a smaller one. He said he knew it was broken before he hit the ground. Ravens safety Dawan Landry tried to pull the ball out on the 20-yard catch, "but he missed and hit my arm instead."

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