Notes: Dalton out sick; Staying home; Back to pads; Zim stays cool; Atkins loses half sack

Andy Dalton

Updated: 4:50 p.m.

With the Bengals Wild Card game in Houston about 75 hours away, quarterback Andy Dalton was out sick Wednesday morning when the Bengals went through their heaviest practice of the week on the Paul Brown Stadium field.

All indications from the club were that it is not a serious ailment and given that he has been called "day-to-day," all signs point to a 24-hour bug. Backup Bruce Gradkowski stepped in for what was scheduled to be a 90-minute workout.

Coming off the field, Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis didn't seem too concerned and said Dalton had the flu.

Gradkowski said Dalton gave the quarterbacks a heads-up with a morning text, but he's not sure what exactly the sickness is. He also said he didn't think missing the day would set Dalton back because "we worked long on the game plan" Monday and Tuesday.

Dalton is only a month removed from preparing for the Texans with a full week's practice and Gradkowski doesn't think missing the heaviest workout of the week is going to hurt him.

"The last two days we've been grinding it pretty hard. The way Andy is and how hard we work, I don't think it's an issue," Gradkowski said after practice. "He's a smart guy and look at what he's done so far picking up the system as a rookie coming in without OTAs. I'm not worried about him on that aspect. It's more important he gets his rest and he feels better. He knows I've got his back and I'll handle the load while he's gone."

Also out for the Bengals was end Frostee Rucker (shoulder) as was backup right tackle Anthony Collins (not injury related), safety Taylor Mays (hamstring), and outside linebacker Dontay Moch (illness). Rucker didn't appear to suffer a setback Sunday and all indications are he should be OK.

Notiing that safety Chris Crocker and cornerback Nate Clements usually take off Wednesdays to rest the oldest bodies on the active roster, defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer observed after Wednesday's practice, "No one wanted to sit today." Clements worked and Crocker (knee) was limited. Center Kyle Cook (foot) and running back Cedric Benson (foot) were also limited.

» The Bengals have an arrangement to use the University of Cincinnati's indoor bubble, but chose to stay at PBS this week even though Saturday's game in Houston (4:30 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 5) is under a retractable roof that figures to be shut, and the temperatures in Cincinnati the last two days were below and near freezing.

"The coaches determined there was insufficent reason for us to get out of our element this week," said public relations director Jack Brennan.

Tuesday's light workout was held in 27-degree weather and Wednesday was about eight to 10 degrees warmer. The forecast for Thursday is close to 50 degreees. » Defensive tackle Domata Peko was pleased Lewis put the Bengals back in pads Wednesday after a few weeks they hadn't worn them. He indicated he thought the defense had gotten away from its good early-season tackling and the pads would help get back the lack of fundamentals that have led to some recent long runs.

The new collective bargaining agreement limits the number of padded practices over the 17-week regular season to 14 with 11 coming in the first 11 weeks. With the addition of one per week during the postseason, Peko said it was a good time for a defense trying to recapture those back-to-back weeks in October they were ranked No. 1 in the NFL.

It matches what Zimmer has been saying in the wake of Ravens running back Ray Rice's touchdown runs of 70 and 51 last Sunday.

"Let's get back to when we were No. 1 in rush defense," Peko said of Zimmer's message this week. "I think that's why we threw the pads on; to kind of simulate that. You lose sight of the technique if you don't have your pads on.

"You (have to) stay low and get off blocks, so we're trying to simulate that. It's good to get back into pads because we play in pads. I think we needed that. We needed to get back into that. We were playing really great and then we lagged for the last couple of weeks. We had some big runs on us. That stuff doesn't sit easy for me. I hate that stuff. If someone breaks a big run, I take that personally."

The Bengals have been off and on lately. Before Rice's two runs, the longest run the Bengals had given up in the previous two games was 18 to the Rams' Steven Jackson.

But in the Dec. 11 loss against the Texans team the Bengals play Saturday, running back Ben Tate broke one for 44 yards.

Rice, naturally, began Cincinnati's big-run woes on Nov. 20 in Baltimore with a 59-yarder that set up a field goal. But before that, the Bengals had allowed just four plus-20 runs with Seattle running back Leon Washington logging the longest with 28.

» Although Zimmer wasn't happy with Rice's touchdown runs, he's taking full advantage of the film that shows players "lost our minds." What he means is that he can show his players what happens when they don't stick to the scheme and go outside their own responsibilities.

"The game we played last week was so (like) we had lost our minds, all our guys were trying to do was make this play, make that play, do this, do that," Zimmer said after Wednesday's practice. "We are doing things outside their responsibilities. I think that was a good thing, you know, because now I can talk about, hey, we have been there already, now we got all that stuff out of us. Let's line up and let's do what got us to this point and why we are where we are and hopefully they'll understand that because last week we had guys that, quite honestly, lost their minds."

» A sack review has taken away Geno Atkins's club record for sacks by a defensive tackle. The sack he shared with left end Robert Geathers early in the fourth quarter of the Dec. 11 loss to the Texans was changed to a shared sack between linemen Jon Fanene and Michael Johnson.

That leaves Atkins with 7.5 sacks, which is tied for the NFL lead among tackles but is a half-sack shy of Dan Wilkinson's 1995 club record for sacks by a defensive tackle. Fanene now breaks his personal best of six to reach 6.5 and Johnson goes from 5.5 sacks to six. It's the first time since 2001 the Bengals have three players with at least six sacks.

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