Updated: 9:10 p.m.
Suddenly with what looks to be the season-ending knee injury to Gibril Wilson, the Bengals are back where they ended last season at the fourth safety spot.
Tom Nelson (knee) is on the shelf and the club doesn't know when he'll be back. On Sunday the Bengals signed one of the safeties they released last Cutdown Day, Marvin White, and now sans Corey Lynch it's almost the same cast of characters from Hard Knocks with special teams captain Kyries Hebert and second-year man Rico Murray having an edge on rookie free-agent Jeromy Miles.
Last year, Hebert made it and Murray didn't but signed with the practice squad two weeks later. Miles, at this time last year, was coming off an All-Colonial Athletic Association season at Massachusetts.
"It's not a cut-and-dried situation with any of them," said secondary coach Kevin Coyle after Sunday's practice at Dayton's Welcome Field. "The addition of Gibril added a veteran guy we felt gave us some flexibility. That's not the case right now ... you just have to wait to see how things shake their way out in preseason. We're better than some teams having three good guys we feel good about that have started for us in that sense. We'll continue to evaluate the guys we have here and anybody else that might become available at the end that we think can help us."
The Bengals know all about White, their fourth-round pick in 2007 out of Texas Christian. He started 13 games for Cincinnati in his first two seasons before last season's sojourn took him to Dallas for three games and then to Detroit for 10 more games and six starts.
"I'm thankful to the Brown (family) and Coach Lewis for bringing me back to a great organization," said White, who earned a reputation for toughness and aggressive play in the box when he was here.
Pass defense isn't his strength, but having the qualities of a football player is. Remember when he played three quarters with a torn ACL in '08? Barely had Wilson's cast been set when White got a call at about 1 p.m. Saturday for a workout, just three days after the Lions cut him.
The knee giveth and the knee taketh away.
"We know the guy. We know he's going to work hard, he knows the system to a degree," Coyle said. "It will be a little quicker for him to get up to speed and compete in the games. We'll see what happens. ... We liked a lot of things about him coming out of college. He's in the thick of the competition with the guys we have."
White seemed pretty at ease with the system Sunday, noting after practice "There wasn't too much different. It's just trying to get a grasp of it."
He'll get the chance because Lewis said he'll play in Saturday's 6:30 p.m. game in Buffalo (Channel 12 in Cincinnati) and if White wasn't playing in it he'd probably be watching it. He said he was watching the Bengals on Friday night because "I always stay tuned when Cincinnati plays" so he can see his friends. And, he clearly had an opinion about the move to cut him.
Asked if he was surprised he was released, he said, "No comment."
White agreed. It is a funny game. As in funny strange. Nelson is the guy that made it last year and White and Lynch didn't. Now Nelson is hurt, Lynch just blocked a punt for Tampa, and White is back.
So is Murray, the Cincinnati Moeller product via Kent State who is more intriguing this year because he moved to safety after playing cornerback as a rookie. When the Bengals got to training camp, Coyle and safeties coach Louie Cioffi made the move, as well as using him as a corner on third down.
"We liked his ability as a cover guy that could also play safety," Coyle said. "With the depth we have at corner, we're able to make him a safety-type guy."
Murray, who played both in college, says he's played only one snap of corner this camp and "it was by accident" Friday night against the Eagles. It was a play where cornerback Morgan Trent got one of his three interceptions.
"I was in there on the nickel, but the Eagles offense is up tempo and they lined up quickly," Murray said. "We were kind of going on the fly and Morgan just got in the (slot) instead of me. So I adjusted to the outside and it wasn't a problem. Morgan got my pick."
Murray was smiling when he said it, but he's been around this thing for a year now and he knows how serious it is.
"The guys that work the hardest, know what they're doing and play well in the games are going to make it," Murray said matter-of-factly.
It helps that Murray also is in some key positions on special teams, but Coyle says everyone involved has to pick it up in games. The coaches simply don't see a lot of separation among the remaining safeties.
"It's a shame. Coming in we really felt good about (Wilson) that he was going to make a contribution," Coyle said. "But that's the nature of the game. Fortunately we have some numbers in the secondary and there's been competition from the get-go. Hopefully somebody will step up now with the opportunity that has been presented to them and makes the most of it."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» The Bengals announced the White move as they prepared to head to Dayton for Sunday's practice at Welcome Stadium. Line of the trip was tweeted by wide receiver Chad Ochocinco on the ride up: "I wish I had a helicopter. I'm in my full uniform on the bus like I'm going to a pop warner game."
But then he later tweeted a picture of the full stands with "Cool."
Bengals president Mike Brown thought the same thing and he said they're talking about doing it again next year. There was even some talk floating around that it would be at night.
A crowd of about 14,000 jammed the facility on the University of Dayton campus and while head coach Marvin Lewis was surprised to hear that some people spent overnight in line to get tickets, he said the crowd "is what our people expected."
On the drive up to Dayton, Brown got a chance to tell son Paul that the Dayton market has always played a prominent role in club history. So prominent that one of the options when the Bengals were looking to build Riverfront Stadium was a spot between Dayton and Cincinnati. When he showed up Sunday he was pleased enough with the crowd that the option of returning for another practice next year is going to be discussed.
"It makes us pleased that we've done it this year," Brown said on the sidelines during practice. "We'll sure want to think about doing it again in the future."
As he left under heavy guard after an on-field autograph session, wide receiver Terrell Owens liked the show and this guy likes shows.
"(14) thousand," Owens said. "You can't ask for much more than that."
Also Sunday the Bengals signed rookie guard-tackle Chris Rodgers out of Ohio University to replace rookie tackle Andrew Mitchell (knee) after Mitchell was waived injured. The 6-4, 320-pound Rodgers, who signed his first pro contract, was in the Bengals rookie tryout camp this spring. If Mitchell clears waivers Monday, he reverts to the Bengals Reserve/Injured list.
» In a brief media get before practice, Lewis said it is looking like the Bengals won't have Wilson this year but made no official announcement about his status, although it is believed he tore his ACL and MCL.
» Also Sunday, fullback/linebacker Dan Skuta (ankle) worked out on the side after missing Friday's game. Backup tackle Anthony Collins (ankle) probably won't be ready until the regular-season opener. Collins was one of several injured players that didn't make the trip. Safety Chinedum Ndukwe, with an unknown ailment, didn't make the trip. Linebacker Abdul Hodge (foot) as well as the players that have to practice this preseason stayed back home to rehab.
Players that did travel but didn't practice were left tackle Andrew Whitworth (thumb), cornerback Morgan Trent (ankle), fullback Fui Vakapuna (shoulder) and wide receiver Andre Caldwell (uknown). None of the injuries look to have an impact on Opening Day. Trent took some ribbing from everyone including the owner wondering if he wasn't practicing because he was tired from making three interceptions Friday night in the win over Philadelphia. He could be back as early as Monday.