Updated: 10:35 p.m.
Offensive line coach Paul Alexander came off the practice field Thursday choosing not to discuss the status of rookie right tackle Andre Smith but the impact of veteran Scott Kooistra, cut Tuesday to make room for fullback Fui Vakapuna.
"Tough. For seven years he played his guts out," Alexander said. "You lose versatility. He played four spots (both tackles and guards), he's very reliable and a hard-try guy."
Alexander wouldn't rule out Kooistra coming back when the numbers are kinder, but the only time he was active were the two games left guard Nate Livings was hurt. With none of the backups not near Kooistra's versatility, the club has to think twice before activating Smith.
"We've got young guys and a young guy typically learns one spot," Alexander said. "The only guy who (played more than one) as a rookie was (left tackle Andrew) Whitworth. There's no solution."
The closest guy to Kooistra is starting left guard Evan Mathis, who has played center and both guard positions in games and tackle at Alabama. But Alexander needs a backup to be that versatile, although he says Livings is beginning to branch out in multiple spots.
So if you're trying to project head coach Marvin Lewis' inactive sheet for Sunday in order to see if Smith is going to be dressed, good luck. With Smith just being cleared for contact on Wednesday, Thursday marked what amounted to just his fifth practice of the season. If he's active, the Bengals have to make sure he's practiced enough to play as much as the entire game if someone gets hurt.
The scribes that cover the Bengals spent a good part of the afternoon trying to come up with the seven inactive guys that would join third quarterback Jordan Palmer now that everyone seems healthy and one or two of the nine offensive linemen seemingly have to sit. One scribe's list: WR Jerome Simpson, TE Chase Coffman, S Tom Nelson, LB Dan Skuta, DT Orien Harris, FB Fui Vakapuna, C Jonathan Luigs.
The problem is even though Mathis, Whitworth and right guard Bobbie Williams have snapped before and could be classified as emergency centers (and the team needs at least one), they are all starters and Luigs has been active for every game, which says something. Could Smith be the most expendable if they don't think six practices are enough to prepare for a smashmouth division game? Then again, the one thing needed more in an AFC North game is a massive tackle.
SPECIAL DELIVERY:On Thursday morning wide receiver Chad Ochocinco checked on his Federal Express package to the Ravens facility. He said it was sent to the Baltimore secondary as well as linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs and although he wouldn't say what it was, unconfirmed reports out of Owings Mills said it was a box of deodorant. Sounds right since The Ocho said it was something that would help them on the field Sunday. He has to hope it goes better than the Pepto Bismol he sent to the Browns secondary in 2004. He had three catches for 37 yards (long of 18) in a 34-17 loss in Cleveland.
The Ocho later confirmed it on a Baltimore radio station, "The Fan," where he gave away 20 tickets to Ravens fans "so they can watch their team lose."
HENRY PROFILE: Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry is the subject of a profile to be seen Friday at 3:30 p.m. on Fox Sports Ohio. It takes a look at his rise from a career marred by NFL suspensions stemming from legal problems to his succesful return to the Bengals. There are interesting interviews with his agent, Dave Lee, and teammate Jon Fanene. It was Lee who decided if Henry really wanted to change, he had to change everything and that included where he lived and it's why Lee offered his home to him in suburban Cincinnati.
RAY FODDER:When Bengals running back Cedric Benson gashed the Ravens last month for runs of 28 and 38 yards, it highlighted the Bengals' dismantling of Baltimore's streak of 39 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Benson's 38-yard touchdown run went right past the usually impeccable Ray Lewis and Lewis hasn't forgotten and threw some gas a la Ocho on the fire in an NFL Network interview.
"You give up two big runs to somebody just because you didn't keep your leverage ... do you give credit to him?" Lewis asked. "Hey, we'll see this week. That's where the credit is ... because anybody can find something once, you know? You have to come do it again."
And for the umpteenth time Lewis ripped his $25,000 fine for hitting The Ocho in midair on the last drive, a flag that contributed heavily to the Ravens loss.
"When you're going as hard as you do in this game, you know the risk that you go through ... everybody gets hurt. I don't believe there's one man out there on the football field that's looking to hurt somebody," Lewis said. "My job as a linebacker is to buckle up my chin strap and if anybody comes in the middle of the field, to make them feel it while the play is going on. I didn't hit him after the whistle; I hit him during a play. That's football. And if I had to do it again, I'd do it a million times the same way."