Updated: 5:15 p.m.
The Bengals' brush with the presidency across the street from their practice barely caused a ripple in their Thursday routine when they could barely see the crowd. Except for the protesters that set up shop near both exercises, which caught the attention of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"That's what Zim asked, if we had some crowd noise," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "I don't think the president being across the street is going to have an effect on us."
Lewis had his own executive problems with wide receiver Jerome Simpson the subject of a drug investigation. Lewis offered no comment after practice except to indicate that offensive lineman Anthony Collins, detained with Simpson, isn't involved and Collins was at practice while Simpson was excused.
Not only is Bengals rookie Ryan Whalen preparing to make his NFL debut in front of his college coach Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against the 49ers (1 p.m.-ESPN 1530), he's looking to play a "significant amount" in light of the club's suddenly fragile situation at wide receiver.
Published reports said that Simpson and Collins were detained Tuesday after 2.5 pounds of marijuana arrived at Simpson's home and another six pounds of marijuana were found in the home along with "packaging materials, scales and smoking devices."
But Lewis said Collins' name "got put into it for no reason," although Simpson appeared to be the focus of an investigation and the Bengals weren't commenting except to say he's excused from Thursday's practice.
"I've been apprised of the situation for a few days now," Lewis told Sirius Radio. "It was at Jerome's house and it's an investigation that's going on. He's cooperating and doing what he can to help in the investigation."
With Jordan Shipley already on injured reserve with an ACL injury and the availability of Simpson for the 49ers game unknown, Whalen is counting on playing after being inactive for the first two games.
"That's the way it's looking," Whalen said before Thursday's s practice. "We've had some things happen to some guys we don't wish had happened, but we're going to support them through it and I'm going to get ready to play."
Whalen, the sixth-rounder from Stanford, can play all three spots but if Simpson can't go the thinking is Whalen will go in the slot while Andre Caldwell would start in Simpson's spot. Whalen finds himself going against 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, his head man at Stanford.
"He's a great coach. He's the reason I went to Stanford," said Whalen, who flirted with some Ivy League schools and the service academies before going with Harbaugh. "He did a great job at Stanford changing the culture with a tough, physical mindset."
Because Harbaugh employed a similar West Coast offense at Stanford, Whalen hasn't had much of a problem adapting to the Bengals version. Whalen had a 3.5 grade point average while majoring in science technology and society, so offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's playbook can't be all that hard.
"A lot of the terminology is different, but a lot of formations are the same," he said.
For safety Chris Crocker, news of the Simpson investigation didn't shake the locker room. A lot of these same Bengals went through a tough season that included the deaths of wide receiver Chris Henry and Vikki Zimmer, wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
"Things happened during that season that weren't very good things," Crocker said. "They actually helped motivate us and it brought us together. You kind of use things like that sometimes to build team camaraderie and play off emotion. Things like that happen.
"You just try to be supportive of your teammates, don't make judgments, try not to be critical, and at the end of the day we have to play football, so we just don't worry about what's outside these four walls. We'll be fine."
GREEN COMES UP LIMTED:Now add this into the wide receiver mess: A.J. Green (toe) was limited in Thursday's practice.
BENSON SUSPENDED?Yahoo.com is reporting that Bengals running back Cedric Benson has been suspened three games for a violation of the NFL personal conduct policy stemming from his two legal problems in Texas and is appealing the decision Tuesday. So he's looking at missing the Oct. 2-16 games against Buffalo, Jacksonville and Indianapolis, and wouldn't return until after the bye Oct. 30 in Seattle.
Benson said through a Bengals spokesman late Thursday afternoon that he hasn't been informed that he's been suspended and NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the league isn't commenting on the report. Benson met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell before last season and wasn't suspended after the first incident. The second one took place duirng the lockout back in July. Reports have said Goodell didn't suspend Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt and Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib despite potential violations duirng the lockout.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Nate Clements, the former 49er, showed this week how he's hung around for 11 years as a solid NFL cornerback.
Asked about the two touchdowns he gave up Sunday, Clements turned to fellow corner Leon Hall and asked, "Leon, who did we play Sunday?"
"We had a bye," Hall said.
"Right," Clements said. "A bye."
» Crocker on the lack of a sellout in the PBS opener: "(The fans) have a right to their opinion. They pay for the tickets. If they don't see us putting our best foot forward, they won't show up. It's OK. We in this locker room don't really worry who is in the stands or if it's a packed house or not. We have to go out there and try and win ballgames."
» Left end Robert Geathers (shoulder) has now missed every practice since getting injured in the opener and went into Friday again looking doubtful.