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Notes: Smith on guard; Joseph misses McKinley; Mates try to ice Nugent

Updated: 1:45 p.m.

Bengals backup right tackle Andre Smith is getting about 10-15 snaps a day at right guard in practice after head coach Marvin Lewis told him he needed to play more than one spot as long as he's a backup. It's the first time he's played guard since his freshman year in high school and upon hearing that center Kyle Cook chimed in jokingly with, "I played tackle in high school. Time to make the move?"

Smith played about 15 snaps last Sunday against the Ravens, mainly as the extra tackle when the Bengals went big and made starting right tackle Dennis Roland an eligible receiver. Smith, as he always has since he arrived as the club's No. 1 pick in 2009, is saying the right things.

"I'm happy to be competing with my teammates and working hard every day and getting prepared for the next game," Smith said before Thursday's practice.

But his time may be soon. He says this is the healthiest and best conditioned he's been since he was drafted with the sixth pick. He says the foot he broke in his third practice last year and had surgically repaired after the season is something he doesn't think about anymore while he's playing.

» Cornerback Johnathan Joseph is still stunned about the alleged suicide of his former South Carolina teammate, Broncos wide receiver Kenny McKinley. Joseph was a redshirt junior when McKinley arrived and immediately took to him. They stayed in touch after Joseph left Columbia and he called McKinley the week the Broncos played the Bengals in Cincinnati last month. McKinley had just had his second surgery on his knee and was out for the year.

"But he was upbeat and looking ahead," Joseph said. "He always had a smile. He was great to play cards with or hang out. I don't think anybody knows what happened. It's just really surprising and sad."

» Joseph plays his first game in the state of North Carolina since his final high school game, an all-star game in his hometown of Rock Hill.

Or, as he says, "about 15 to 20 minutes away. A couple of exits up the road" from where the Bengals play the Panthers on Sunday in Charlotte.

"I have a lot of family there that don't get a chance to come up and see me play, so they have a chance to see me Sunday," Joseph said. "But other than that, it's the same from week in and week out. Nothing different for me."

» On the basis of his five field goals against the Ravens, kicker Mike Nugent was named the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week and just barely missed a dunking in the club's cold tub at the urging of Andrew Whitworth and Bobbie Williams in the moments after the game.

"That's the thing I don't need. A cold tub bath, so I just ran the other way," Nugent said.

"The week isn't over," warned Williams.

One guy who to be wary of some kind of prank Thursday is Lewis. It's his 52nd birthday.

"And it's very hot outside," Williams said with an evil grin.

» The billboard said 93 degrees again Thursday. The only players not dressed for practice were cornerback Adam Jones (shoulder) and defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (toe).

» Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has been saying it all week as the Bengals prepare for Panthers rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen's first NFL start: "The running game is the quarterback's best friend."

Bengals safety Chinedum Ndukwe isn't Clausen's best friend, but he knows him and since he's a fellow Golden Domer from Notre Dame he'll usually be pulling for Clausen. But not Sunday.

"I have a soft place in my heart for Jimmy. I wish him nothing but the best," Ndukwe said. "Even watching the game Saturday night (ND's late loss to Michigan), it was tough. Hate to see bad things happen to good people. I always feel for our guys that are part of our Irish tradition."

Ndukwe, a senior when he met Clausen during the recruiting process, was familiar with the situation since he said one of his best friends, then-Irish quarterback Brady Quinn, was instrumental in getting Clausen to South Bend.

"Jimmy is a good quarterback. He'll have a long career in the NFL," Ndukwe said. "Hopefully we can give him some problems this Sunday."

» The Bengals' vote whether to to decertifythe NFL Players Association as a union or not is a week from Thursday. The issue may not come up at all if talks heat up for a new collective bargaining agreement. The club's NFLPA player rep, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, says it is still a long way off, but he says every NFL player needs to vote on decertification.

"The only reason we're really doing it is so when it comes time for the executive committee and the player reps to make a decision that we do have permission whether or not do it. So you're not really voting to do it, you're voting if this ever comes up, we need to know what our teams feel."

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