Nelson activated; Joseph maybe; Leonard out; Lewis says 'I have to coach better'

Updated: 5:55 p.m.

The Bengals added their first player of the regular season Friday when they activated safety Tom Nelson to fill the roster spot of the suspended Antwan Odom. Head Marvin Lewis said cornerback Johnathan Joseph (ankle) is probably going to play Sunday, but he's not 100 percent sure and he's officially questionable. 

In what has to be a record in the Lewis era, Nelson was the first addition to the 53-player roster since the Bengals set the roster for the opener with the claiming of No. 3 quarterback Dan LeFevour off waivers Sept. 5.

SLANTS AND SCREENS

» Joseph suited up for the first time since he injured his ankle 12 days ago against Tampa Bay when the Bengals worked out Friday morning in helmets and shorts on the Paul Brown Stadium field and went limited.

Running back Brian Leonard (thigh) and safety Roy Williams (knee) were again working on the side as they have all week and are out. Defensive lineman Jon Fanene (hamstring) went full as he has all week and was listed as questionable even though he's expected to play. Defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee), out Wednesday, limited Thursday and full Friday was also listed as questionable. 

» Head coach Marvin Lewis believes the video the NFL has sent to the teams detailing what is and isn't a legal hit is going to go a long way in clarifying things for defenders in allowing them to still bring an aggressive approach to the game.

"It's a good step in the right direction," Lewis said.  "They have some things they would like to get out of the game and things that are legal and still able to get your job done effectively on defense. They did a good job of having both sides of that in the video."

Lewis, a member of the NFL competition committee, was in the room when the NFL decided to make helmet-to-helmet hits a point of emphasis back in March during the league meetings.  He doesn't think the league has changed anything, only the urgency after what he called an "unfortunate," weekend in which there were three monstrous hits in a space of about 15 minutes a day after a Rutgers player was paralyzed.

"We'd already been taken steps during the offseason to address it and this brought it to a head I think," Lewis said. "You just have to lower your strike zone and lower the target area and the instrument you're using. You can use the helmet, just where it strikes. Don't hit him above the shoulder."

At that meeting, they extended the rule so that even a runner can't get hit in the head, not a just a defenseless pass receiver.  Lewis said the example was shown in the video with the Bengals' own Jordan Shipley getting elbowed into a concussion by Browns cornerback T.J. Ward back on Oct. 3. It was an incomplete pass, but still would have been a penalty and hefty fine and/or suspension if Shipley had caught the ball as opposed to last year's reading of the rule.

"That's the clarification from a year ago," Lewis said. "Before, had I dropped the ball, it's a penalty. Had I caught the ball, I'm the runner. And now they're trying to give the (runner) an opportunity (to be protected)."

 » Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth is calling the next four games his "month of hell," with a formidable schedule of pass rushers.

The Falcons' John Abraham, whose 93.5 career sacks are the most by an NFL defensive end since 2000, lurks this week. AFC co-sack leader Cameron Wake of the Dolphins comes to PBS on Halloween. Then, with the retirement announcement not coming, the Steelers' James Harrison, a former Defensive Player of the Year, comes to town Nov. 8 with his pace that now puts him at 4.5 sacks. Then the Bengals go to Indianapolis to play the feared Dwight Freeney Nov. 14. And indoors does matter to guys like Abraham and Freeney.

"They're great rusher indoors or outdoors," Whitworth said, "but the crowd helps them at times. The Falcons try to take you out of what you do with their speed. You have to stick to your technique and not get wrapped up in it."

Whitworth is confident that he's as good as the top left tackles in the league and he's anxious to show it again this month after last season he only allowed one sack while playing the likes of Harrison, Terrell Suggs and Jared Allen. He knows that at 6-7, 335 pounds, some people are going to say he's too big to handle speed rushers. How many more guys does he have to block to prove it?

"Honestly, everybody who plays on that side is damn fast. Most of them are all speed rushers," he said. "There are only three that really are unique that are smaller guys that are really quick. Freeney, (Robert) Mathis, Trent Cole. Other than that, the other rushers are pretty similar."

Abraham has already had some mega days against very good left tackles this season, such as the Browns' Joe Thomas, and Whitworth is preparing for "a very explosive athlete with great quickness who's also big enough (6-4, 263) that he can push you around. If you're a left tackle, this is what you want. Face the best."

Abraham has been known to flop at times and there will be moments he'll be matched against the right tackle tandem of Dennis Roland and Andre Smith. But most of the time he lines up over the left tackle.

 » Lewis was happy with practice this week, but admitted, "We've practiced well every week. We have to go out and take it from the lab and put it out there on the stage."

» Lewis on his interview with Shannon Sharpe of CBS for Sunday's NFL Today pregame show: "I told him it was my all my fault. I have to coach better. That's the truth. I have to coach better. When you say that, everybody shuts up."

» Happy 10th wherever you are, Corey Dillon. Ten years ago Friday, Dillon broke Walter Payton's NFL rushing record with a 278-yard game at PBS in a 31-21 win over Denver. It has been broken twice since, once by Jamal Lewis in 2003 and Adrian Peterson currently holds the record with 296 in a game three years ago.

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