Updated: 8:45 p.m.
Rudi Johnson According to Thursday's injury report, Bengals running back Rudi Johnson is out of Monday night's game against the unbeaten Patriots with a hamstring problem and most likely won't play for the first time in 64 straight games, or four full NFL seasons.
That is based on information available Thursday and could change later in the week, as it it did with Browns linebacker Antwan Peek two weeks ago when he was ruled out early in the week and came back to play.
But according to Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan, while it's not unprecedented for a player to return, an "out' classification is usually definitive.
Kenny Watson figures to make his first Bengals start in his five seasons here in place of Johnson (his fifth in the NFL) and quarterback Carson Palmer knows how that makes him feel.
"I know Kenny's fired up. He's been waiting forever," said Palmer, who lobbied for the club to re-sign him 30 minutes after last season was over.
Palmer admitted, "We miss some things with Rudi," but he also said, "What (Watson) lacks in size and power he makes up for in quickness and speed and great hands out of the backfield. So it will be tough if Rudi's not ready to play, but I think everybody in this entire offense is very confident in Kenny."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
There is a big-game air snapping, popping, and crackling around Paul Brown Stadium this week as the Bengals prepare for the best team in football.
But Chad Johnson says, "It's not about New England Monday night, trust me. It's about us."
Johnson, the NFL's leading receiver, says the Bengals need to get out of the Patriots game with more than a victory.
"We've got to get our swagger back early," Johnson said after Thursday's practice, "We've got to go. We've got to go."
Has there been a tougher game in the Marvin Lewis era? The Patriots are ranked No. 1 in both offense and defense, and own wins over the Lewis Bengals in 2004 and 2006.
"We put up 45 points (and lost) two weeks ago in Cleveland," Johnson said. "We have to keep that mindset. We've got to. We've got to. I'm looking to put 45 Monday night. Regardless if we're playing the No. 1 defense or the 32nd defense, we've got to."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, unlike last year, chose not to trash talk with Johnson during his news conference Thursday in Foxboro.
"No. I'm not going to fire the first shot," Belichick said. " It was good to be with him out at the Pro Bowl. He has a lot of energy. He likes football. He has fun out on the field. He really has fun playing. I don't think he has an edge at all. I really don't. He's just having fun."
Right guard Bobbie Williams can sense the bigness of the game. He knows the Bengals are 4-0 in prime time at home under head coach Marvin Lewis and that they will be ready. This isn't one of the games he's worried about his enigmatic team coming out flat.
"I have no doubt we are going to go out there and do our thing," Williams said. "Any big game. We've got to stop playing down to our opponents. Whether or not it's a so-called big game."
Linebacker Caleb Miller (back) didn't practice Thursday morning inside rainy Paul Brown Stadium. Middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks (groin) did and left early after getting some limited work, but indications have been that he'll play.
Johnson didn't apear during the ensuing media session and head coach Marvin Lewis wouldn't elaborate when he said he had a better sense of his status.
Brooks, who had eight tackles, a sack, and forced fumble against the Ravens in the opener, hasn't played since straining his groin on the first drive of the next game.
Right tackle Willie Anderson (foot) and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (knee) looked to be taking their weekly days off. Left guard Stacy Andrews (shoulder) was also limited.
Marvin Lewis plans to outfit his club in the orange jerseys and white pants Monday night, hoping to keep the orange streak alive. The Bengals are 3-0 in each white and black plants with the orange, a designated "specialty" uniform that can be worn twice a season.
All the orange jersey games have been at home with the white pants combination beating Green Bay in 2005 and Carolina and Oakland last season.
Cornerback Blue Adams knows exactly why he's here, which is exactly why Lewis likes him and called him back Wednesday to replace the released Keiwan Ratliff.
"Special teams," Adams said. "It may be the only thing in football that you can do coming in off the street because all you have do is run down the field."
Lewis argues that Adams didn't come off the street because he was here for all the spring camps until he herniated a neck disc in the June minicamp. Although he missed the first three preseason games, Adams played in the preseason finale before he was released a few days later.
"He knows the language," Lewis said.
With the arrival of Lewis, the Bengals have grown more tolerant of older players, i.e. thirtysomethings like Lemar Marshall, Michael Myers, Reggie Kelly.
Lewis has been taking notes from the Patriots.
"What they're doing is helping other organizations look at that from a different perspective. Guys don't necessarily fall apart at 30," Lewis said. "If you're a pro, and take care of your body and your livelihood, you can play like that. By doing that you prove mentorship to younger players you bring on and it's an inspiration. ... It's good for other teams to look at."
Pats quarterback Tom Brady on Wednesday said he was excited to be able to watch Palmer work in person Monday night.
Palmer didn't return the compliment Thursday.
"You don't really get anything from him when you're the opposing offense," Palmer said. "With other quarterbacks, you go into games and there's a pretty good chance you'll get a pick and maybe a fumble here and there. He's just so efficient with the ball and so smart with it. ... It's not fun to play against him. It's fun to watch him. I enjoy watching him on film, and do a lot, and watch their offense on film, but as far as playing against him, I'm not looking forward to it."
Brady, resting a sore throwing shoulder, was limited in practice Thursday.
At least Belichick has two fans in Cincinnati in two of his players on last year's AFC Pro Bowl team: Palmer and Chad Johnson.
Indeed, Johnson sounded like a Belichick Hall of Fame voter.
"That videotaping thing, it doesn't matter," Johnson told the New England media Thursday. "OK, say you do know the signals. You still have to go out and execute the defense. Forget that. Take the cameras away. You're talking about a great football team that has great coaches. Throw that camera bull out the window. They'd be 3-0 right now regardless of that damn camera.
"Be for real. Be for real. They're a great team offensively and defensively. They are a great team and there is a reason why they are where they are. It's not because of (any) damn camera."
When he met with the Cincinnati media Thursday, Palmer recalled halftime of his first Pro Bowl, a 31-28 win in which he was named MVP. But even though it was tied 14 at the half, Palmer got a jolt.
"It was my first All-Star game like that, you don't know what to expect. And he came into the locker room rip-roaring and screaming and yelling like it was halftime of the Super Bowl and we're down 21 points," Palmer said. "But it just shows you that's the competitive side he has. Doesn't matter whether it's practice, whether it's an All-Star game, whether it's a preseason game, he's coaching to win, and he wants to win. That's why they're so successful, his competitive edge. It's obviously rubbed off on the team.
"It was just an honor. He's a legend. He's an icon. I was nervous. You get nervous when you meet him."