Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert has been cleared to practice after missing all or most of the last four games and that means he's going to play Sunday (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19) against the Ravens in the season finale at Paul Brown Stadium and not take a week off to get ready for the playoffs.
That's the message coaches and players delivered Wednesday at PBS when the 11-4 Bengals returned to work with an outside shot at securing a bye in the AFC playoffs after it slipped away Monday night in Denver.
The Bengals need a win and Denver loss to visiting San Diego. A Kansas City win at Arrowhead over Oakland and a Denver loss also gives the Bengals a bye no matter what.
"All hands on deck, 'said offensive coordinator Hue Jackson after Wednesday's walk-through. "Marvin (Lewis) has never said anything to me other than let's get ready to win a game. (The Ravens) are playing well, they're coached well. It's going to be a tough game."
It was hard to see if anyone was practicing Wednesday because they were wearing sweats in a walk-through. But AJ McCarron (sprained left wrist) looked OK and both he and Jackson said he's ready to go. He was listed as limited and starter Andy Dalton (thumb) was officially ruled out.
Jackson said he wasn't even aware that McCarron got hurt trying to recover his fumble on the game's last play until Tuesday afternoon.
"He's pretty quiet about that kind of stuff," Jackson said. "I didn't talk to him afterward, nobody said anything to me. But I know him well. He's a tough young man. If it's sore, it's sore. He doesn't worry about stuff like that. I've never been concerned about it. I know he'll be fine and he obviously proved that today practicing and he did a good job.
Eifert said he has no intention of sitting out Sunday after he was listed as participating fully Wednesday.
"I'm feeling good. I'm cleared and I'm ready to play," Eifert said after the walk-thru.
Eifert got concussed on the first drive of the Dec. 13 game against Pittsburgh when Steelers safety Mike Mitchell was flagged for a head-to-head hit after Eifert's 18-yard catch on a slant. Eifert stayed in the game and caught a 24-yard screen pass before leaving.
"I didn't feel right, but in my head I was like I can still get my job done, I thought," Eifert said of the play. "But I guess you don't think clearly when you're concussed either."
Eifert said his last previous concussion was at Notre Dame six years ago and that one was "probably a little worse." Mitchell is one of the more notorious players in the league, but Eifert shrugged it off when asked if he thought Mitchell took a needless shot at him.
"I didn't black out or anything. I was just kind of dazed I guess and I felt really kind of groggy and just kind of out of it," Eifert said. "Just playing football and hit me in the head. So, I'll let other people be the judge of that." . . .
It looks like tight end Ryan Hewitt (sprained knee) won't play and it's a real question if he can be ready for a playoff game in a week or two weeks. He didn't practice Wednesday. . .
But there were signs that starting safety George Iloka (groin) is going to return after missing the last two games. He worked for the first time since re-aggravvating the injury Dec. 13 and was listed as limited. So was starting left end Carlos Dunlap (hamstring) and starting wide receiver Marvin Jones (hamstring).
Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther has raised the carrot of a 12-4 finish to his players, which would be the best in head coach Marvin Lewis' 13 seasons.
If they win, left end Carlos Dunlap promises a shower for the famously dour Lewis when it comes to winning. Lewis is out of the school of Bengals founder Paul Brown. When you lose, say little. When you win, say even less.
"Absolutely. You can get an ice bucket and a couple of more things if we take care of business," Dunlap said. "He's not a fan of celebrations. But he'll get this one. He doesn't have a choice." . . .
All that said, the Bengals have played too many wars with the Ravens to take them lightly. They just saw Baltimore wreck a very hot Steelers team, so they know.
"We saw what they did last week. We don't want that to happen to us. We're not going to sleep on them," Dunlap said. "San Diego and the Broncos is a rivalry, too. They probably play them just like the Steelers were upset by the Ravens. That's a similar battle for their (division). Any given Sunday is the saying of the football league. You never know what happens. We just have to take care of business and after our game see we'll where we're at."