Updated: 7 p.m.
The Bengals have lost kicker Mike Nugent and third cornerback Morgan Trent for the season with knee injuries and right tackle Clint Boling is headed to surgery for his broken foot as head coach Marvin Lewis sifted through the Bengals injury news Monday.
Lewis wouldn't be specific about the knee injuries, but Nugent is believed to have suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his kicking knee. He said Trent is going to undergo surgery at some point.
Special teams coach Darrin Simmons called Nugent's injury "freak." Like Nugent said after the game, he didn't make contact with anyone while hurting his knee during his successful onside kick with 2:35 left in Sunday's 23-17 loss in Indianapolis. His assignment was to stay in back of the scrum in case the ball bounced back to him, but his knee gave way when he caught his cleat in the turf.
The Bengals will have a new kicker by Wednesday's practice. They'll work out a couple of street free agents Tuesday and he'll have to be able to kick off because punter Kevin Huber doesn't do it. Simmons said the Bengals were prepared to use wide receiver Chad Ochocinco to kick the winning PAT and "he would have made it."
It turns out the Bengals are competing with the Steelers for kickers in the wake of ESPN's report via ProFootballTalk.com that Pittsburgh is talking about cutting Jeff Reed amid the worst season of his career. Simmons talked about looking at available kickers that have played against the Bengals and they have seen Reed's struggles up close. Before he missed a 26-yarder at Heinz Field Sunday night in the loss to New England, he missed a 46-yarder at Paul Brown Stadium six days before that with 3:59 left in the game to give the Bengals one last shot to win it.
Reed has never shied away from controversy and he might have hurt his marketabilty in a postgame news conference in which he ripped the Heinz surface, took the media to task for focusing on the negative, and talked about how the fans have been on him for nine years.
Also Monday, the Bengals got a one-week roster exemption for right end Antwan Odom after he returned from his NFL-imposed four-game suspension for testing positive for banned substances. The Bengals plan to replace Nugent with another kicker but how they'll fill Trent's spot remains to be seen.
Simmons is just absolutely sick about what happened to Nugent. He overcame some nagging injuries that knocked him out of the league in 2008 and sent him to limited stints in Tampa Bay and Arizona last year. But the hometown kid (Ohio State via Centerville) made his first eight field goals as a Bengal after a spring and summer Simmons tinkered with his mechanics.
Nugent was trying to pull out of a slump heading into Sunday's game after missing three of his last four tries and two straight last Monday night against Pittsburgh. But the shortest miss was from 45 yards. He made his one attempt in Indy, a 27-yarder, to finish his first Bengals season at 78 percent (14-for-18), but 50 percent on his four plus-50 kicks.
"Disappointing for him and disappointing for us," Simmons said. "Take a couple of plays away in the Pittsburgh game and he was having a pretty good year. Just very disappointing. Feel bad for him. He's very tough mentally. He'll get the thing fixed and work his tail off to get back to where he was."
Simmons thought it was fitting that the popular, likeable Nugent got carried off the field by teammates Frostee Rucker and Dan Skuta.
"I think that shows the appreciation and level of respect the guys have for him," Simmons said. "The guy comes to work to do his job every day and that's what's disappointing for him and why everyone feels bad."
Skuta was a key figure in recovering the onside kick. The backup linebacker and fullback barged into the middle of the scrum and knocked the ball free to start a melee that ended at the Bengals 45 with safety Tom Nelson holding it in the middle of a host of angry Colts saying they had it legally.
"Those guys fought their (butts) off to get to the ball. Everyone has their opinions on what happened and we ended up coming up with it and leave it at that," Simmons said. "We talked in the huddle about going to execute. The biggest thing this week was execution. It doesn't make a lot of difference what everyone does, it's about us. We're our own worst enemy. We have to execute what we're supposed to do. Let's execute it the way we practiced it, let's get the ball and go win the game. Give the offense a chance to win the game. Everyone felt good that we were going to get it."
It was sweet vindication for Simmons' unit. The Bengals special teams had been big parts of the losses in the two previous games. But as of late Monday afternoon, he still didn't know who his kicker was for Sunday.
"This one is obviously for the rest of the year, whoever it is, which makes it tough," Simmons said. "But it is just like it is with anything. The next man is in and we've got to find that guy. Unfortunately, he's not here today."
Smith had similar surgery after last season and faces a six-to-eight month rehab. He said last week he should be ready before the May field workouts.
It's unclear what kind of knee injury Trent has, but it's believed not to involve the ACL. Indications are that he needs it to be cleaned out after missing virtually all week of practice before the Miami game a few weeks ago. But that didn't stop him from playing well against the Dolphins in place of Alex Erickson, the third corner that he replaced after Jones went on injured reserve with a herniated neck disc.
Trent suddenly resurfaced on last week's injury report on Friday, leaving the Bengals with safety Chris Crocker as the third corner. But when Crocker was shelved with a thigh issue, they had to suit up practice-squadder Rico Murray. Murray, a converted safety playing in his sixth NFL game, came up big with eight tackles and two passes defensed.
Lewis indicated Crocker could be close to coming back, if not for Buffalo this Sunday then on Thanksgiving against the Jets in New Jersey in 11 days.
"We brought Rico up, so we'll stay kind of even there," said Lewis when asked if he'd add a DB. "Rico did a very good job on special teams again. We are getting good work out of him. That's one thing, he's being productive. When he gets his chances he has shown through, so that's good."