Updated: 4:55 p.m.
This is why Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis covered his face with his hands Wednesday.
You never know with injuries and after losing wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (foot) and WILL linebacker Thomas Howard (knee) to fluke injuries in practice, so he was ready. Lewis just didn't know it would happen with kicker Mike Nugent straining his right calf trying to push through a kickoff in the Wednesday morning walkthrough. Others who also missed games or the season because of practice injuries are running back Bernard Scott (hand), wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (knee), and cornerback Brandon Ghee (wrist).
It's believed to be only a tweak that probably takes Nugent out of Sunday's game against the Cowboys (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 19), but unfortunately for the Bengals it happened with their short week looming. The freshly-signed Josh Brown may have to also kick in Philadelphia next Thursday (8:20 p.m.-NFL Network) against the Eagles. With 10 days off until playing in Pittsburgh, Nugent should be OK by then.
Lewis called it day-to-day, but that's a sliding scale. Hawkins was called the same and missed two games.
"We were happy with the fact that there were some experienced guys out there available. We worked some guys out today and chose Josh," Lewis said. "At this point in the year you have to be happy to have guys like that who are available."
The corresponding move was the release of center Jeff Faine to waivers, meaning that center Kyle Cook is most likely going to be activated for Sunday's game. The Bengals will need to cut someone to make room for him, but there's not expected to be any surprises. They won't cut a DB or wide receiver.
Brown is a nine-year veteran who didn't hook on with the Jets and Arizona this season after kicking for the Rams for four years. Before that he spent five years in Seattle and has a career field-goal percentage of 80.9 on a total of 272 tries. Last year in St. Louis he was 21-of-28 and went 8-for-14 from 40 and beyond.
He won Thursday morning's tryout duel on the Paul Brown Stadium turf with two other veterans, former Bengals draft pick and 12-year man Neil Rackers and Billy Cundiff, the eight-year vet the Redskins released after the fifth game of the season when he missed five of his 12 field-goal tries.
Special teams coach Darrin Simmons said it was "a gut" call after watching everbody kick. The Bengals passed on Cundiff, at times the most lethal kickoff guy in the game, indicating the Bengals may be more concerned about accuracy than length. The Cowboys are 25th returning kicks and 15th in scoring.
"I think experience, for one. Not that other guys don't have experience. The other thing that factors into it they are all very, very talented guys," Simmons said of why it came down to Brown. "They each have positives, each have negatives. They all three kicked pretty good. It was kind of a gut feeling a little bit. I got a lot of confidence in him. I know he's been good kicking game-winners. And we could be playing in some close games here to finish the season where we are playing some pretty good teams. He's been a clutch guy in the past. Not that other guys aren't or don't, just a gut feeling."
Brown, a 2003 seventh-round pick of the Seahawks, has seven career winners in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"We had a lot of high-quality guys here, guys with a lot of experience," Brown said. "And that's the thing. It's one miss here, two misses there. It's a finite difference. Each team will go with who makes them feel comfortable. It could be a number of different reasons."
Rackers, a sixth-round pick of the Bengals in 2000, had been Simmons's first kicker when he arrived in Cincinnati in 2003 but they never got a chance to go into the regular season because Rackers hurt his knee in the preseason finale and the Bengals felt they had to go to the waiver wire. Simmons and Rackers remained friends and Simmons was impressed with what he did Thursday. Rackers continues to wait after getting let go by the Redskins in preseason.
"There's certainly a level of familiarity we have with him but what it comes down to is being able to make kicks at crucial times and kick off well," Simmmons said. "Regardless of the past, because he's been here before and we are friends he may or may not be the best. He's kicked on this turf before. Actually kicked on it several times. Like I said, it was a gut feeling. I would have had extreme amount of confidence in any of them but we went with Josh."
Brown said he's been kicking three days a week, and since he still lives in Seattle he says he'll be ready for Sunday's forecast of rain. He already feels like he's faced a pressure kick in this building because of the tryout.
"Especially if you want to play. You treat this like a game. You practice that mentally, and you try to simulate the game in your mind the best you can," Brown said. "You don't have pads or anything like that, and there's no rush. But you've still got to be consistent."
Brown kicked in PBS back in August when the Jets came in for a preseason game. He's been around long enough that his lone PBS regular-season game came in the last year the building had grass, his rookie season of 2003. The Bengals beat Seattle, 27-24, when Brown had a 48-yarder blocked and made a 27-yarder.
He may need to adjust to the weather. Brown remembers it being "freezing cold" that day, but records show it was 49 degrees back on Oct. 26, 2003. But he won't have to adjust his regimen despite the long plane ride because he has followed it as if he was still with a team.
"Kicking three days a week. Friday, Sunday and Tuesday," Brown said. "Tuesdays are essentially my Sundays. Those are my game days. So, I structure it that way. So Friday is my heavy kick day. Sunday I tune up. Tuesday I come out like a game."
He worked with long snapper Clark Harris and holder Kevin Huber in the tryout and Huber said he plans to do some extra work but he doesn't expect it to be major because Brown has kicked for so long.
"I think they know the situation," Brown said. "Nuge is hurt and this is a week to week thing and they want the best fit for their guys right now. There's got to be somebody who can come in and just do it. It was good to have them out there and just give a real look and feel about what you are going to be getting."
Even if it's only for one game Brown, 33, has a lot riding on it.
"It's an opportunity to finish strong and hopefully somebody somewhere is looking for a veteran kicker that can come in and do a solid job," Brown said. "This will be an opportunity to kind of push me into the offseason and going into a camp next year."
It could even be here since Nugent, the franchise free agent, is working on a one-year deal, although the Bengals would like to re-sign him. But Brown knows there are a lot of things working against older kickers.
"I went to Washington and Arizona and had great tryouts," Brown said. "Obviously only one made a change. They've only had two or three changes in the entire league, and most of those guys went with younger, cheaper guys.
"I've played football since I was 11. For the first time in a decade I'm not playing in the NFL. It's an adjustment. It's not what you want, but I have three kids. You can't mope around. Life continues."
Nugent hopes the season continues for him at some point, so he missed the tryout and kept getting iced down to speed up the healing process. He wants Brown to do well, and he also wants to get back.
"You think about that. Throughout my career I've done a good job of just thinking about things I can control," Nugent said. "What happened to me yesterday, I feel like I've done everything right and why would this happen to me right now?
"It's out of my control now. All I can control is trying to work at it. The time frame, I have no idea."
COOK IN KITCHEN: What we do know is that with Faine getting cut, the Bengals are going to get back a key player for the stretch run in the person of Kyle Cook, the man that has centered two of Lewis's three playoff runs. What Cook says he doesn't know is if he'll start Sunday in place of rookie Trevor Robinson.
"I haven't been told anything. I'm a player and not a coach," Cook said.
And he's a good, smart player, which is how his rehab went after he underwent surgery for an ankle injury a week before the regular-season opener.
"Everything from the smart – surgery, rehab, no complications as far as rehab. The time frame was set and we were right on or really close. Whatever I can do to help I'm here," Cook said. "Before the surgery I hoped and wanted (to be back). After you are in surgery and in a cast you don't know if it is possible. You are coming off of surgery. Then as the rehab process starts you get the itch. Now make the best of it."
One argument for Cook getting the nod is that he's gone up against Rob Ryan's defense in Cleveland and spent a career of going against 3-4 looks in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. He says it seems like Ryan has toned down the number of looks.
"A little bit. If you compare him to how he was in Cleveland maybe a little bit," Cook said. "You don't see as much of the crazy stuff on film. They have talented athletes and they perform. Not as drastic but a little bit of a difference.
"Are they as crazy as other teams? No. Do they have real good players for the scheme? Yes."
Lewis said it was a leap to say that Cook is going to start given that he's not even active yet even though he practiced full for the first time Wednesday. But he figures to be active since Robinson would be backed up by only left guard Clint Boling.
Lewis said he told Faine to stay ready.
"Great pro," said Lewis, remembering that Faine answered the bell 10 days before the opener to get the Bengals through the first month of the season.
GRESHAM SITS OUT: Tight end Jermaine Gresham didn't practice Thursday with a hamstring issue after he went full Wednesday. Running back Cedric Peerman (ankle) and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion) didn't work for the second straight day. Wide receiver Marvin Jones went full go after being sent home Wednesday with a stomach virus.