There was a brief Tyler Eifert sighting Wednesday morning, but when he didn't surface on the field Wednesday afternoon to practice or rehab, hopes began to fade for him to appear in Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) in New England.
Eifert (back) attended the morning walk-through, but that's apparently all he did with the team and he looks to be on the verge of missing his sixth straight game.
A.J. Green, their other big weapon, also didn't practice with a calf injury. It didn't look to be serious since he followed the receivers and offense and wasn't on the rehab field early in practice. Also not working was starting left guard Clint Boling (shoulder). Since both played deep into last Sunday's game, they would figure to be OK.
Starting running back Jeremy Hill (chest), starting safety George Iloka (shoulder), backup running back Rex Burkhead (hamstring), and backup tight end C.J. Uzomah (ankle) were limited.
LAFELL LA MAN: Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese hasn't had much to smile about this season. But free-agent pickup Brandon LaFell has emerged for just exactly what they needed opposite Green. After five games, he's got 21 catches for 276 yards and two touchdowns and is on pace to outrun Marvin Jones' numbers of last year.
"LaFell's a man. He's a professional," Zampese said after Wednesday's practice. "The way he goes about his business, it's not surprising his numbers are where they're at."
LaFell is coming out just as he's going back to Foxboro, where he helped the Patriots to the 2014 Super Bowl title. He still keeps in touch with the man he hooked up with 74 times that season, Thomas Edward Patrick Brady.
"I texted Brady two days ago. I texted Brady after the game," LaFell said of Brady's return up in Cleveland last Sunday.
But he said he didn't talk to him during his suspension that had New England up in arms and Brady out of the first four games.
"I didn't want to bother that guy too much, but I texted him to check on him, make sure his mind was clear," LaFell said.
BRADY EASY ON YOUK:
You won't find a bigger Bengals fan than Kevin Edmund Youklis, the Sycamore High School grad and University of Cincinnati product who grew up and went away to Fenway Park to become the beloved "Yoooouk,' for two world champions.
"Yoooouk,' the Red Sox ultimate grinder, otherwise known as Moneyball's Greek God of Walks," otherwise known as Tom Brady's brother-in-law. Youklis, who drove from his home last December in San Francisco to spend the victory over the 49ers in the Bengals radio booth, is married to Brady's sister Julie.
But, apparently, there are some things weddings can't do.
"He's a much bigger Bengals fan than Patriots fan," Brady reported during Wednesday's conference call with the Cincinnati media. "I know he'll be rooting for the Bengals this week. He's decked out every year in the Christmas sweaters and I see a lot of pictures of him wearing Bengals stuff. He's definitely got Bengals in his blood. You can never take that out of him."
Which is just fine with Brady. He's been playing the Bengals ever since 2004, Youklis' rookie season in Boston, and has had the last laugh five of six times and is 5-0 at Gillette Stadium. He's sifted them with a 101.2 passer rating on 12 TD passes and three interceptions.
"I have respect for that. I like that," Brady said of Youklis' allegiance. "When you find a team you like, you stay with them," Brady said. "He's always done that. He loves Cincinnati, the Bearcats, too. He never forgot where he comes from."
The Bengals aren't the only team Brady has beat up on his way to a first ballot Hall of Fame selection. He's 6-2 against the Steelers with a hard-to-believe 22 TDs on three picks for a 113.4 rating. That would be his highest rating against a team if it wasn't for his 4-0 record against Atlanta, formed on nine TDs and one pick for a 115 rating.