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Mulling Cook's option as Kirkpatrick sits out vs. Colts

Trevor Robinson

Updated: 4 p.m.

Kyle Cook's jersey he wore in the Bengals locker room before Tuesday's practice said it all.


"Life's unfair, isn't it?" Cook asked.

Cook deferred all questions about his ankle injury to head coach Marvin Lewis and Lewis confirmed an ankle injury that has a hazy status and the Bengals' response may not be imminent as they seek a more definitive length on Cook's injury.

Also not working Tuesday was rookie cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick after he was examined for recurring soreness in his knee where he had a bone spur. Lewis said he's suffering from tendinitis, won't play Thursday in the preseason finale in Indianapolis (7 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) and that it's not a season-ending problem.

"They're just going to calm him down and kind of work on it," Lewis said. "He just has some irritation. It's nothing. He didn't reinjure anything or anything. He's just got some irritation. They just want to calm him down again. Hopefully we can keep pushing over these humps with him."

Lewis said Cook's injured ankle isn't as clear-cut and the club is still trying to determine the severity of it in order to plan what happens next. The options range from signing a veteran like Jeff Faine (in for a workout Tuesday), trade for a center, claim one off the waiver wire after Friday's cut to 53 league-wide, or stick with rookie free-agent Trevor Robinson.

And what do the Bengals do with Cook, who apparently has one of those ankle injuries that could take eight weeks, or 12, or 16 depending on his progress? A season-long injured reserve assignment might be too long. But if the NFL decides to go though with an eight-game IR designation, he could be in line for that.

One guy who seems to have a significant injury is tackle Nick Hayden and that may impact the defensive line spot with tackle Pat Sims (hamstring) expected to go to the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and miss the first six weeks of the season. So the Bengals could start the season with eight defensive linemen and go with 10 offensive lineman with Cook as the extra guy.

So there may not be a move until they wait to see how Cook comes out of surgery, if he needs surgery. Options for the Sept. 10 opener against Ravens Pro Bowl nose tackle Haloti Ngata have to be taken into consideration along with season-long implications.

"We have to explore some options. We don't know how much time (he'll miss)," Lewis said. "He's trying to figure out the best options for him as well and we'll evaluate it from there."

Those are just two of the injuries that the Bengals have to figure into Friday's final roster and Cook's fate could be tied to other positions. 

Even before Thursday's game the Bengals are already carrying several injured players that are questionable at best for the Sept. 10 opener but are going to be on the 53: Left ends Robert Geathers and Carlos Dunlap (knees) and running back Bernard Scott (hand). Also in that category have to be Kirkpatrick and the Nos. 4-5 cornerbacks Adam Jones and Jason Allen. None worked Tuesday or look to have season-ending injuries.   

Although Cook wouldn't elaborate, it also appears that he doesn't have a broken bone. He also seems to have a date in mind when he could play and whether that meshes with what the doctors feel and how long the club can carry him on the 53-man roster without playing him remains to be seen.

Cook's injury isn't related to the dislocated toe he suffered on the last snap of pregame in Dallas in 2008, which delayed his promotion to starter by a year. He's started all 50 games since starting the 2009 opener.

"That was the left foot, this is the right," Cook said. "That was a fluke ... and it hurt a lot more than this." 

Cook said he showed up Monday thinking he could practice, but was the told tests showed problems. The potential problems are so big that the Bengals have brought in for a workout Faine, a 31-year-old war horse, and a former No. 1 pick and Pro Bowl alternate that has played in coordinator Jay Gruden's style of offense.

With the big cut coming Friday, Lewis also pointed to last season when the Bengals picked up a starting center from the Eagles in Mike McGlynn and a return man in Brandon Tate off waivers just before the season, and both ended up playing significant roles. Yet in 2011 the Bengals were fourth in the waiver order while they are 21 now. So Lewis said if they need somebody and see a guy they want, they may have to trade.

The Bengals have pulled three trades in the late stages of the last two preseasons, which is how they acquired both their starting safeties, Reggie Nelson and Taylor Mays.

"I don't know where Baltimore was last year (27th), but I know they claimed a couple of the guys we did that we got," Lewis said. "That's the thing, when you're down a little ways that's the difference. It's a little harder. You've just got to work it and see. Maybe you fall into a guy who fits you the right way, a younger guy who fits you the right way and he's got his football ahead of him.

"Because we are further down, to ensure you get what you want (we may have to trade)."

Robinson gets the start Thursday at center, his first start on any level at center after practicing there since the spring.

"Offensive line play is similar across the front," Robinson said Tuesday as the Notre Dame product suddenly became the center of media attention. "It's just a little bit of intricacies I need to pick up, but it's coming along well."

The problem with Cook's absence is that because he's so smart the Bengals put a lot mentally on the center in their offense. They have hopes for Robinson ("He fits in here," Cook says), but it's more down the road. They need someone that can snap the ball in the din of Baltimore in the Sept. 10 opener and Robinson has been very convicning but it would be an unconventional move at best.

"There's a lot on the center here and that's one thing Cook is very good at," Robinson said. "That's the biggest thing I've been trying to learn from him and he's been a big help."

Cook, for one has been taken with a guy that started every game the past two seasons in South Bend and is the fifth freshman ever to make a start on the offensive line.

"Robinson's been great. I've been very impressed for a rookie like myself that's never really played center until the professional level," Cook said. "He's a smart kid, he's come along very well and I kind of like him."

Robinson says the toughest adjustment has been snapping and stepping.

"It's easy to stand and snap, anybody can stand and snap," he said. "It's being able to do your job without the snap in there. That's just the process I've gone through and I feel very confident."

He blew a couple of shotgun snaps early in the OTAs, but he's already blown them off.

"It's just like anything else, it's reps," Robinson said. "At first it was maybe a little shaky back in rookie camp but that's months ago now and that's behind me. It's second nature, I don't think about the snap anymore when I go up to the ball."

Also not practicing Tuesday were Geathers, Dunlap and Gresham (knee) as they worked on the rehab field. But Lewis said those players are making progress and while Gresham and Geathers are expected to open the season in Baltimore, he says Dunlap is also making a run to get into the lineup with what he calls his new attitude.

"He's making very good progress. He's worked extremely hard. The new Carlos is still the new Carlos," Lewis said. "It's what you expect. It's time to grow up and do these things and he has. He's watched the guys he came in here with and this injury is an unfortunate setback. But you know what? Maybe it's a good thing. So he's been able to get going and as of Monday or whatever it was, when he worked out at 11 o'clock or 10:30, I figure he had two weeks and eight hours to make the bell, to answer the bell. He seems pretty close with things."

Lewis indicated that the fate of running back Bernard Scott in the opener is tied into when doctors take screws out of his injured hand and how long it takes hm to bounce back.

"He's working on conditioning, working on carrying the ball and doing those things he's got to do now," he said. "The one thing is our running backs haven't taken many shots in the preseason. So that's probably a good thing."

Scott is telling Lewis he'll be ready. Lewis is telling Scott what he always does.

"My eyes show me better than I hear," Lewis said.

The Cook injury won't send him scrambling. It sounds like Lewis will roll the rest of the starters out there Thursday for what is probably one series.

"Guys could get run over by a car crossing the street," Lewis said. "It's unfortunate, but guys get nicked up. It happens all across the National Football League. Every week, or every day you read about somebody. We've been fortunate, knock on wood. Let's stay fortunate."

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