The Bengals' effort to get the upcoming three-game home stand on local television passed its first test Thursday when the club announced ticket sales for Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Ravens at Paul Brown Stadium reached the threshold to clear the game for a live broadcast in the home market on Cincinnati's Channel 12, Dayton, Ohio's Channel 7, and Channel 27 in Lexington, Ky.
While the Bengals have accepted an NFL option to have blackouts lifted this season with 85 percent of non-premium tickets sold, good seats on all three levels remain by calling the Bengals Ticket Hotline during business hours at 513-621-8383 or toll free at 866-621-8383. Tickets also can be purchased at any time through Bengals.com.
GREEN DNP: The A.J. Green Saga continues.
Green began Thursday's practice on the rehab field, but came armed with his No. 18 jersey, which could mean anything. More proof that this is an hour-to-hour proposition and they are going by how his right big toe feels after rehab and exercise.
In the end, Green didn't practice and while that makes him a longshot for Sunday, Friday is still another day. They may be thinking they'll work him as close as possible to the game for just one day. But he hasn't practiced since Oct. 4, the Friday before the New England game. He re-injured his toe before practice started Oct. 9, which means three weeks of rust is developing.
Even more uneasy is the image of defensive tackle Geno Atkins stepping out of a pre-practice drill and taking off his left shoe as he peered at his foot. It was unclear if he needed a tape job or if it was more serious, but it looked like it was minor because he wasn't on Thursday's injury report.
Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict (neck) went full, as did defensive tackle Brandon Thompson for the first time since he sprained his knee in the Sept. 14 PBS opener as the Bengals try to get their beleaguered run defense (ranked 30th) squared away before they meet the seventh-ranked Ravens. Starting SAM backer Emmanuel Lamur (shoulder) also went full for the first time since he got hurt Oct. 12 against Carolina.
Cornerback Leon Hall (back) returned to practice in limited fashion after he left in the second quarter Sunday.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth (knee) took his veteran's day Thursday. Left guard Clint Boling (knee) took one, too, but went limited.
Head coach Marvin Lewis unveiled a new wrinkle Thursday and had music coming through the speakers usually reserved for recorded crowd noise before home games during warmups and drills before practice.
(The first selection belonged to "Latch," featuring Sam Smith.)
CENTER OF ATTENTION: As the Bengals look to rebound from their historically bad offensive production last Sunday in Indianapolis, offensive line coach Paul Alexander literally needs better play across the board.
"It wasn't just one guy. There were 11 setbacks," Alexander said after Thursday's practice. "They took it to us. Sometimes that happens. You get embarrassed. If you're a prideful competitor you get mad about it and you wake up and fight another day."
Alexander said no challenge had to be issued. "I think the challenge is clear on film." But he wouldn't say there were too many men in the box to deal with for the line or any other scheme issues. He simply left it with, "Overall it was a bad day. But we can't brush it off. We have to atone for it."
Profootballfocus.com gave its two highest grades on the offensive line for Sunday's game to right guard Kevin Zeitler and rookie center Russell Bodine. Zeitler was playing at a high level (18th in the guard PFF rankings) before he missed the previous month with a calf injury and Bodine has been impressing Alexander since he took his first snap against these Ravens in the Sept. 7 opener.
Alexander says Bodine has improved 100 percent since that day he held up pretty well and helped keep a Baltimore defense sack-less that now has 10 sacks in the last two games.
Although PFF hasn't graded Bodine highly (35th out of 41 centers), Alexander believes he has given the Bengals the physical presence they in the middle need against AFC North teams like Baltimore and he's been extremely impressed with his emerging leadership.
"He's a Clint Eastwood style leader. The guy in Breaking Bad kind of leader," Alexander said. "Stern and solid. Says few words but his few works. Every week he assumes a greater role being that leader."
The scope of how well he's adjusted isn't lost on Alexander.
"The techniques you use in pro football are so different than the ones you use in college," Alexander said. "And he's had to learn those and he's had to learn a pro-style offense that probably has ten times the volume of plays that his college offense had. Being able to orchestrate that and make all the calls and run the show, he's done a pretty good job."
The Ravens defense wasn't exactly playing badly when the Bengals won the opener, 23-16. They held them to five field goals and gave up a long touchdown pass at the end to lose it. The Ravens are first in fewest points and touchdowns allowed, and lead defenses in red-zone touchdown percentage.
Alexander says they'll see pretty much the same stuff from a defense that plays a style more like the Panthers than the Colts.
"They always have something new for you that you have to cope with during the game," Alexander said. "But the hardest thing about Baltimore is their players. They have the best players in the National Football League on one team."
SPECIAL MATCH: The Ravens are pumping up the Bengals special teams. Head coach John Harbaugh, the former long-time Eagles special teams coach, called Sunday's game a matchup between two best units in the league.
Bengals punt returner Adam Jones leads the NFL and the Ravens' Jacoby Jones is fourth in kick returns. Cincinnati's Kevin Huber is third in net punting; the Ravens' Sam Koch is ninth. The Bengals are third in covering punts and first in net average against them.
"I certainly agree with his assessment of Cincinnati. The jury is still out on us," said Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg. "We have a long ways to go, yet. But they're an outstanding group. They're talented athletically. They have players in each style of positions. They have big guys that can play. They have smaller, fast guys, and they have some in-betweeners. And when you put the two returners they have, combine them with that, it's a very effective group. Numbers speak to that."
*SLANTS AND SCREENS: *Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees isn't taking the Bengals' 27-0 loss Indy to heart.
"Look, we play Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh [often]. Who cares what happened the last game?" Pees asked the Baltimore media Thursday. "Really, or the previous six games? It's Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh – it's a division game. And you know what? It's always going to be like … It's always going to be a battle. It's always going to be a dogfight. So really, what happened to them at the Colts is really, to us, just absolutely insignificant." ...
The Bengals have changed their color scheme for Sunday and are going with black jerseys and white pants. No reason why they changed from all black. They are 26-25 in that ensemble and 12-9-1 in all black...