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Lewis: No more excuses; Nelson up?

Tom Nelson

Updated: 5:30 p.m.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis gave the word Monday with his team back from the bye week.

"No more excuses," said defensive tackle Domata Peko after the morning workout in helmets and shoulder pads.

"You can say this and you can say that, but it comes down to us. I'm still mad. No one wants to lose."

» Lewis agreed after the workout that there isn't a need to add a defensive lineman since the Bengals still have eight with the four-game suspension to Antwan Odom. But the move could come at any spot.

"We've known about Antwan's situation since training camp; we've been a little bit heavy there," Lewis said. "We'll see what happens."

With Monday's workout conducted in helmets and shoulder pads, the Bengals appeared pretty much fully manned everywhere except at defensive back. Safety Roy Williams (knee) was not on the field and cornerback Johnathan Joseph (unknown) was on the exercise bike. Tight end Reggie Kelly (unknown) didn't work, but it's not believed he's got anything serious.

Safety Tom Nelson (knee) is eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list (PUP) Tuesday, but just how ready he'd be after not practicing at all this year is in question.

"I might be back tomorrow, we'll see," said Nelson, who has been working in pads on the side for about a month. "I can play. I've sat in every meeting and I know what we're doing. I haven't taken reps with the team, but I do DB stuff every day. I do special teams stuff on my own. Trying to get it just like a game as much as I can on the side. Obviously you can't simulate practice."

» The Bengals don't have to activate Nelson on Tuesday or put him in team drills, but his three-week clock begins ticking. If they don't activate him in three weeks, they can either put him on injured reserve or release him. Once he starts practicing, the Bengals have three more weeks to decide what to do with him.

» Here is what bugs guys about the officiating: Teams can question the NFL about some of the calls that go against them that week and the league responds. Word is that the NFL told the Bengals two of the false starts called in the Tampa Bay game weren't false starts, and one of them was the crushing flag on rookie tight end Jermaine Gresham on third-and-eight with 2:28 left that made it third-and-13. Lewis still might have gone for it, but would the route or play have been different with the ball on the 43 instead of 38?

» The Bengals, in Atlanta next Sunday, could be the beneficiary if the NFL follows through and immediately hands out suspensions for helmet-to-helmet hits after some high-profile hits in the high-profile area in Sunday's games. According to the Associated Press via, NFL vice president Ray Anderson said the NFL could start the suspensions immediately and Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson could be on the list after his concussion shot on Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson in Atlanta's 31-17 loss.

Robinson may be out anyway. Falcons coach Mike Smith said Robinson also suffered a concussion on the play, and it is being reported that it is unlikely that he'll be ready. (Smith also said Atlanta's No. 1 pick, linebacker Sean Weatherspoon won't play with a sprained knee.)

Bengals defenders, like all NFL defenders, have grown weary of what seems to be the constant crackdown in favor of the offense.

"It's really tough. You're just accustomed to not worrying about where someone's head is, you're just trying to tackle the guy," said safety Chris Crocker, who gave then-Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes a concussion two years ago. "You're trying to jar the ball. That's what we're taught to do. Any way you can do that, that's what we're trying to do. Now we have to reinvent ourselves and everything that we were ever taught we have to go back and reassess it and try to tackle a different way now. So it's tough, but this game evolves. They make these rules where you can't touch receivers after a certain point. Everything changes, so you just have to change with the game. Those are things we can't control, so you just have to change with it."

Responding to a general question about the high amount of penalties the Bengals have made on defense this early in the season, defensive tackle Tank Johnson let the officials have it.

"These referees are calling the game too tight. They're calling the game to a point we might as well not even wear pads out there," Johnson said. "As a defensive player, our job is to run there as fast as we can and if we accidently bump a guy on the way there, they give you 15 yards. So it's like you're dodging people at the same time where you're trying to hit people. I just think, honestly, the refs are calling the games way too tight and they're trying to get themselves into the Super Bowl. We just have to find a way to sneak around and try to arm tackle people because it's a joke. These referees are a joke."

» Lewis was able to poke fun at himself when asked after practice if he watched any football Sunday. Referring to his decision to go for the first down on third-and-13 with a 21-14 lead with 2:28 left in last Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay, he said "I saw a couple of teams (leading) throw the ball on third down. One got a penalty and one got a conversion."

"Obviously I have a lot of faith in our offensive group to get it done and it didn't come through that time," Lewis said. "As the rest of the season goes, we'll make those plays."

» Lewis confirmed that Odom probably couldn't have played much over the next month anyway after he injured his knee last Sunday against Tampa Bay. Asked about the suspension, Lewis said, "Came at a good time. He's injured, so it didn't really matter."

» While the Bengals were forming the NFL's fourth-best defense last year, they rarely gave up points in key parts of the game and almost always gave the ball back to the offense when needed. But Lewis observed Monday that while he's not happy where the defense is, he offered that it is probably "a little ahead of where we were last year." 

On most stats, he's right after five games:

In '09, the Bengals had allowed 327.6 yards per game compared to 317.6 this season. In '09 after five games, they had allowed opposing passers to throw for five TDs with four interceptions while completing 61 percent of their passes for a 79.9 rating. This year opposing QBs are completing 57 percent of their passes for only a rating of 70.1 while throwing seven interceptions and just six TDs.

Even the rushing stats are comparable. The Bengals gave up fewer yards on the ground last year at this time (98.8 per game compared to 111) and 4.2 per run last year compared to 4.4 this year.

But the big categories are sacks, third downs, big runs, and points. The defense had 14 sacks after five games last season while foes were 24-for-67 (35.8 percent) on third down while averaging 18 points per game and there had only been one run of 24 yards. This year the numbers are six sacks, 26-64 (40.6) on third down, and 20.4 points per game. And there have been five runs of at least 24 yards.

The 20.4 points allowed is good, but not enough for an offense scrounging for every point at 20.0.

Peko said third downs have been a big topic in the film room and while he's usually not a part of the pass rush package, he realizes the pressure on the quarterback hasn't been there on first and second down, either.

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