The Sept. 19 home opener against Baltimore just got a little spicier.
T.J. Houshmandzadeh, now a member of the Ravens, returns to Paul Brown Stadium for the first time after completing a career that saw him finish No. 3 on the Bengals all-time receptions list with 507. The man who threw him more than half of those in the last three full seasons they played together is bracing for it.
"I'm happy for T.J., but I don't like playing against him twice a year because I know what a good player he is," said quarterback Carson Palmer before Monday's practice. "T.J. has a lot left."
The Bengals and Houshmandzadeh parted ways over more semantics than money via free agency before the 2009 season and with the addition of 36-year-old Terrell Owens to team with 32-year-old Chad Ochocinco, there is no way the Bengals were going to add another thirtysomething receiver. Even at the $850,000 veteran minimum, which is what Baltimore is paying Houshmandzadeh. But he is still highly regarded in the building.
Particularly in the locker room.
Is there anybody in the NFL that Houshmandzadeh doesn't talk to?
"I'll text him, then it will be back to business," said cornerback Johnathan Joseph, who learned plenty from him in practice. "I text him every couple of weeks. He was always a vocal guy and we'd always talk about what can help him and me. … He's a good guy overall. He cares about you … absolutely he can still play. His skills haven't diminished that quick. He was just here and he was good."
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is looking forward to seeing the man he succeeded as the Bengals rep to the NFL Players Association. He spent time with Houshmandzadeh over in Hawaii during the NFLPA meetings and they talk about all kinds of topics.
"I'm ready to see him get mad and upset but for the other team," Whitworth joked of Houshmandzadeh's on-field volatility. "He makes a lot of plays, a lot of catches, and he's still someone to give respect and prepare for. Hopefully we can get him frustrated and keep him from hurting us."
Whitworth understood where head coach Marvin Lewis was coming from Sunday when he ruled out Houshmandzadeh rejoining the team because of the way his club is constituted.
"Once a team has moved on, with the young players we've got and we believe in, you can't go with three receivers over 30," Whitworth said. "And get rid of your young guys because what happens when those guys aren't here? I think we're in position where we have some young talent and is it worth it to get rid of them?"
Whitworth also plans a text of congratulations and he knows exactly what he'll see from Houshmandzadeh in a series that has become as heated as any the Bengals have had.
"I'm sure he wanted to surprise us and show up; let us see the ponytail next week," Whitworth said. "There's no doubt T.J. wants to beat us as bad as possible. We're always excited to play them. This just adds more to the rivalry."
» The Bengals have voted for their captains: Palmer and guard Bobbie Williams on offense, middle linebacker Dhani Jones and tackle Domata Peko on defense and Brandon Johnson on special teams.
» Fullback Fui Vakapuna cleared waivers and has been put on the Bengals season-ending injured reserve list. He said Monday he may not need surgery for a shoulder that popped out of place early in training camp, but he said he does need to do much rehabbing andd strengthening.
The Bengals were practicing for 90 minutes Monday afternoon in shoulder pads and shorts on the game field before taking Tuesday off and embarking on their weekly regular-season regimen for a Sunday game…They appeared as healthy as they've been in a long time. The only players on the 53 not dressed were defensive tackle Geno Atkins (unknown), cornerback Brandon Ghee (head), and running back Brian Leonard (foot).
» The Bengals made a bid for former Steelers guard Kraig Urbik on waivers Sunday but they had no shot, according to The Sporting News. He went to the Bills, but he also could have gone to the Dolphins or Broncos before going to Cincinnati, according to the waiver order. The Jets also claimed him. Urbik, a third-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2009, is the guard-center type the Bengals are looking for as a backup. They're currently hanging with seventh-round pick Reggie Stephens.