Notes: Andre Smith full go; Mike Johnson sits out Thursday; Palmer Cards Gresham

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The Bengals sat two defensive starters Thursday when cornerback Adam Jones (foot) missed his second straight day and right end Michael Johnson surfaced with a back issue after he practiced Wednesday.

Two starters also returned to full action, right tackle Andre Smith (concussion) and left end Carlos Dunlap (shoulder), as well as special teams ace and backup safety Shawn Williams (ankle). Another starter, WILL backer Vontaze Burfict (knee), went limited.

It looks like they won't have rotational defensive tackle Pat Sims (knee) for Sunday's game (8:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) in Arizona. He didn't appear for the second straight day, which means they may be going again with Brandon Thompson. They've basically played the same amount with Sims playing in five games and Thompson four this season.

Jones was on the field with the secondary and returners Thursday and that's a good sign because he's had weeks where he's gone through the same routine and has played.

In Arizona, two starters sat out their second straight day, right guard Jonathan Cooper (knee) and wide receiver Michael Floyd (hamstring). Starting left guard Mike Iupati (neck-concussion) gave everyone a lift when he went limited Thursday after leaving the field in Seattle Sunday in an ambulance. Also limited were starting center Lyle Sendlein (shoulder) and starting strong safety Rashad Johnson (ribs). Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (ankle) went full.

GRESH MESHING: And, oh yeah, it's another big game for an ex-Bengal Sunday night. Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham, Carson Palmer's last first-round pick as a Bengal in 2010, joins forces with his old quarterback to play their old team.

The Bengals chose not to re-sign Gresham in free agency last season after five years as a starter and two stints as a Pro Bowler, so you know he'll have the adrenaline pumping just like Palmer.

Gresham signed a one-year deal a few days before training camp opened after undergoing surgery for a herniated back disk during the offseason. He's coming off one of the biggest catches of his career Sunday night in Seattle on a 14-yard TD with 4:15 left to give the Cards the lead for good.

But it was his first touchdown of the year on only his 13th catch, which computes to 23 catches and two TDs for the season, far below his season averages in Cincy of 56 catches and five touchdowns. But head coach Bruce Arians says he's been a good run-blocker as they ease him back following the surgery.

 "We wanted to just get a veteran in our room. We had some young players that got hurt and he played himself into shape. We took our time with him and he had a big catch for the touchdown," Arians told the Cincinnati media in his conference call this week. "He's been blocking very, very well at the point of attack. I've been pleased with him."

Arians said that Palmer put out a full-court press to convince the Cards to sign Gresham even though they only played for a year together in Cincinnati.

"He was wearing me out trying to get him here," Arians said.

The Bengals were always looking for more consistency from Gresham, a good guy with marvelous talent. But in his last three seasons he had a total of 25 penalties and in 2012 and 2013 he had the most among tight ends, according to profootballfocus.com, to go along with 13 combined drops.

He's had only two penalties and two drops this season.

"Because of that surgery he just kind of fell into our lap," Palmer said. "And he's really coming along. I mean he's been making plays these last couple weeks. He didn't get to us 'til late, and he wasn't fully healthy when he got to us, so he missed out on so much time. But these last three, four, five games, he's really coming along and doing exactly what we expect. He's big, physical, fast, catches it really well. He's been a great addition for us."

Promoted to starter, Tyler Eifert is the big beneficiary of Gresham's departure with nine Pro Bowl-like TDs and while Gresham is viewed as the better blocker and Eifert had a terrible game blocking Monday night, Eifert is actually rated the sixth best run-blocking tight end in the league and Gresham the seventh, according to profootballfocus.com. PFF has Gresham No. 50 and Eifert No. 64 in pass-blocking among tight ends. Gresham has two drops this season and Eifert six, according to PFF, but three in one game, and his nine TDs lead all tight ends and his 460 yards are No.  8 among tight ends.

Gresham is a great teammate. Just ask Eifert, picked with the same 21st selection as Gresham three years later in 2013. Eifert tried texting him in the offseason a few times and didn't hear anything back, so he's looking forward to seeing him before the game.

"He took care of me, kind of took me under his wing and sort of looked out for me," Eifert said. "I think not so much from a football perspective, but he came in here and we were always having fun. Good game, bad game, whatever, he always kept it light, which for me as a rookie, you know, 'Oh my gosh. I'm in the NFL now, and this is so serious,' and all that, and meetings were so serious and long, and he always kept it light.

"It can be a grind, and I think it's good to keep that attitude throughout the year. It's easy to have that attitude when things are going well. This is a big deal and it's important to all of us, but you have to keep it light."

 

Cincinnati Bengals host practice at the University of Cincinnati 11/18/2015

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