Ndukwe: I'll keep working

Updated: 8-7-08, 1:20 p.m.

GEORGETOWN, Ky. - Fox 19 in Cincinnati has reported Chinedum Ndukwe will miss four to six weeks. A source with knowledge of the injury put it at five weeks. Head coach Marvin Lewis won't say or doesn't know.

Ndukwe won't be specific about his "lower leg" injury, but he is grateful for the attention Bengals president Mike Brown paid him in the moments following what appeared to be an injury to his knee.

"I came back on the field. I was going to go back in. I wanted to go back in," Ndukwe recalled of his conversation with head trainer Paul Sparling. "Mike Brown didn't want me to go back in. He thought I should get tests to make sure and it turns out he was right. Tests don't lie. If I went back in , who knows what would have happened? I'm grateful to him. It shows how much Mike cares about his players. They can say all they want about him, but that really impressed me."

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Ndukwe

Ndukwe, roaming between the dining room and the locker room on crutches Thursday before an afternoon practice, didn't want to get into specifics. The reported time frame would make him questionable for the Sept. 7 opener in Baltimore, but he would only say, "My teammates and everybody around here know how hard I work. I'll be back and ready as soon as I can. It could be next week, it could be whenever."

Ndukwe, one of the Bengals' three top safeties, said he was OK Wednesday morning after he failed to plant his foot coming upfield to cover a pass in 11-on-11 as the Bengals worked in shoulder pads and shorts with minimal hitting. He grabbed his knee and rolled in pain, but 20 minutes later he was back on the sidelines standing up and holding his helmet.

It's believed he didn't suffer any ligament damage in his knee, but apparently there could be a cartilage issue because he's not practicing and he's on crutches.

Lewis would only say Ndukwe has a lower leg problem and wouldn't give a timetable on his return.

Ndukwe returned to the field with an elastic band around his knee minutes after he was carted off the field with his head in his hands.

"I'm OK," he said after practice, admitting he was quite relieved because "I've never felt like that before in my life."

Ndukwe, a seventh-round pick in '07, was the only AFC rookie last year to return a fumble for a touchdown while getting multiple sacks and interceptions.

SLANTS AND SCREENS

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Carson Palmer and the first offense figure to get somewhere between 10 to 12 snaps to start Monday night's preseason opener in Green Bay.

Lewis also said Wednesday he expects wide receiver Chad Johnson to play, as well as first-round pick Keith Rivers "barring anything major." He said it doesn't look good for running back Rudi Johnson and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh with their hamsting pulls.

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During a news conference following the morning practice, Lewis said that fullback Jeremi Johnson, not on the roster because he's overweight, is improving but doesn't have a timetable for his return.

"He's with the team every day and really has done outstanding," Lewis said. "So when I feel good about where he is and we feel like he's passed his physical, we'll allow Jeremi to come back and practice with pads on and practice in whatever the dress of the day is with the football team."

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Getting a day off Wednesday morning in preparation for the night practice were right tackle Willie Anderson, running back Chris Perry, wide receiver Antonio Chatman, and cornerback Johnathan Joseph. Houshmandzadeh, Rudi Johnson, Herana-Daze Jones, Ethan Kilmer, and the other guys who have been resting hamstrings and other muscles were also out and continued to be in the night practice.

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Put cornerback Deltha O'Neal in that group and SAM linebacker Rashad Jeanty didn't practice in the morning or evening. Defensive tackle Michael Myers took the night off.

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Strong safety Dexter Jackson got the defense's orange jersey for leadership in the morning and he helped the offense go through some miserable periods. He filled the hole on running back DeDe Dorsey's plunge and Dorsey fumbled on the collision. Rookie running back James Johnson fumbled a few snaps later as Jackson flew around and he added a sack.

The offensive line caught offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski's ire when at least two of them moved and he yelled, "Two starters?"

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Before Wednesday night's practice the Bengals waived rookie wide receiver Travis Brown of New Mexico, with an injury settlement (hamstring). Brown was acquired by the Bengals on waivers from Seattle on May 6. The move leaves the club one below the roster limit of 80.

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More center intrigue when right guard Bobbie Williams moved to center and Andrew Whitworth moved to left tackle from left guard for the resting Levi Jones for a lot of the first-team snaps in the night work. Indications were center Eric Ghiaciuc was getting a rest, but Lewis and Bratkowski also said the club is simply trying to figure out how many linemen to keep active on game days so that it has three guys that can play center in case of emergency.

And it's a work in progress. Williams wheeled a shotgun snap over Carson Palmer's head, but it is an intriguing lineup when the 340-pound Williams or Whitworth move to center. Offensive line coach Paul Alexander calls it his "Jurassic" lineup, but only if needed. Ghiaciuc is their guy.

By the way, Alexander is not down on tall centers. Whitworth is 6-7, which conjures up an image out of the Bills Ring of Honor for Alexander's hometown team. He puts Kent Hull at about Whitworth's height.

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The usually calm Palmer flashed a rare display of anger when he couldn't get a pass off with pressure in his face and he slammed the ball to the turf. True to form, he ripped himself for it.

"Shouldn't have done it and I apologized for it," Palmer said. "Part of it is we're in camp and the other part is I got mad at someone and I shouldn't have."

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But Palmer continues to be a solid guy for an offense that is resting a host of injured players. Chad Johnson continues to work and rookie receiver Jerome Simpson made a nice catch along the back of the end zone when he ripped the ball away. Right tackle Willie Anderson left the field with trainer Paul Sparling, but he was under his own power.

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Sparling spent some time fiddling with Johnson's ankle after he made a nice catch on a comeback route on the sidelines, but it didn't seem anything major because on his next snap Johnson blew downfield and got open but the ball wasn't completed.

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Most impressive part of the one end-of-practice sprint Wednesday night? Running back Chris Perry busting it with sweat streaming down his face and winning it with no sign of physical problems after sitting out just one practice since Friday's scrimmage.

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