In the whirlwind of the A.J. Green news, it was almost lost that Pro Bowl WILL linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion) returned in the full gear of helmets and shoulder pads Wednesday, as did right guard Kevin Zeitler (calf). Both have missed the last two games. Burfict went full and Zeitler was limited.
Wide receiver Marvin Jones (ankle) didn't work and neither did defensive tackle Brandon Thompson (knee), so right away Sunday doesn't look good. But right guard Mike Pollak (knee) and linebacker Vincent Rey (calf) looked to be getting rests. Well-deserved for Rey in the wake of Sunday's 101 snaps.
Middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (shoulder) and safety George Iloka (abdomen) went limited. Iloka had the same problem last week and played.
LUKE LOOK: Head coach Marvin Lewis, linebackers guru, has been following Panthers Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly since Kuechly was a Cincinnati schoolboy and had some high praise for him Wednesday in the run-up to Sunday's 1 p.m. game against the Panthers at Paul Brown Stadium.
"Luke's a great player," Lewis said. "I thought he was one of the best prospects if not the best linebacker prospect I've ever seen coming out of the draft. I thought he could do everything and he's not disappointed me."
And so let the comparisons begin between the heart and soul of both these defenses. Burfict became friendly with Kuechly at last year's all-star game in Hawaii.
"Both very sudden. Both very good tacklers and they can both make plays on the football in the passing game,' Lewis said. "They both lead their team."
Burfict is one of the guys Kuechly watches constantly on film.
"I've got a lot of respect for what he does. He's one of those guys you like watching because he brings a lot of energy to the game," Kuechly said.
"You watch him on film, he runs to the ball, he's quick, he's got a good football I.Q., he knows where it's going. He's got a motor. You don't get as many tackles as he did last year without one, being fast, and two, getting to the football. Shoot, we were watching Baltimore (tape) and he's at the ball. Whatever it takes. He'll go through you, get off blocks."
Kuechly likes grit. It's why his favorite Bengal growing up was on offense: wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
TIX TRENDING: Ticket sales for Sunday's game have been going at a good clip, according to Bengals ticket sales manager Andrew Brown. But a 24-hour extension to Friday in order to hit the 85-percent mark that allows the game to air on the local Fox affiliates is still an option.
The club still needs a regular Thursday output so the game can be seen on Cincinnati's Channel 19, Channel 45 in Dayton, Ohio, and Channel 56 in Lexington, Ky.
"It's been a positive week," Brown said. "After the game on Sunday I kind of feared the worst and it's been much better than that."
Brown said the Bengals are pretty close to where they were the Wednesday of the PBS opener, when they drew 58,574 against Atlanta, and in much better shape than they were on the Wednesday of the Tennessee game, where they drew 56,743.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Lewis also said at his Wednesday news conference before practice that they had replaced center Trevor Robinson on the roster with guard-center Jeff Baca, a sixth-round pick of the Vikings out of UCLA in 2013....
But he's not the newest Bengal. The good news is that linebacker Khairi Fortt, claimed off waivers from New Orleans, passed his physical. The bad news is it wasn't in time to take a rep in practice. But special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons said he'll give him a long look in practice Thursday and Friday to see if he can play teams Sunday...
If they had MVPs for every game, defensive lineman Wallace Gilberry would have been the MVP for the New England game. He's got his eye on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, a rare bird in Gilberry's seven years of NFL travels.
When Bengals radio voice Dan Hoard asked him if he'd seen a QB like Newton with that combination of size and speed, he paused.
"It's been a while. I would say the last one I faced with his talent would probably be Jamarcus Russell when he was out in Oakland," Gilberry said. "Hurts you running and has a big arm. It's a challenge and definitely something I'm up for. Never afraid of a challenge. He's an SEC guy, so I'm kind of familiar with him. He's getting better every week. He's coming off an injury and you can see he's getting better every week."