Updated: 3:30 p.m.
Word that Carson Palmer is questionable for Thursday night's preseason finale with a broken nasal bone is the coup de grace for an offseason and preseason where the Bengals just could never get their first-string set of skill people on the field together.
Still, they are all expected to play in the Sept. 7 opener in Baltimore after only being on the field together one day in June at a mandatory minicamp when Palmer, running back Rudi Johnson and wide receivers Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh gathered briefly.
The receivers never joined Palmer and Rudi Johnson at the voluntary workouts and by the time Chad Johnson was ready to practice at training camp, Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson were recovering from hamstring injuries that have kept them out nearly four weeks in a stretch that should end at Monday's practice as they prepare to play in Indianapolis Thursday.
PalmerBut now Chad Johnson is out with a shoulder sprain and Palmer may not go after undergoing a brief procedure to treat a small crack in his nose.
Palmer suffered the injury late in the first half while getting sacked for the third time on the night by defensive end Bobby McCray and safety Kevin Kaesviharn during the Saints' 13-0 victory at Paul Brown Stadium Saturday night.
"Carson is feeling fine," said head coach Marvin Lewis in a news release that characterized the procedure as taking less than 10 minutes.
"He suffered a small crack in one of the nose bones. The bone was gently put back into place under local anesthetic."
Backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick could make his first Bengals start in the 7 p.m. game at the Colts' new Lucas Oil Stadium. He leads all Bengals quarterbacks with a 101.3 passer rating that dipped from 109 after he threw just four passes and completed two against the Saints.
Before Palmer got hurt, the plan had been not to play Fitzpatrick against the Saints and go with Jeff Rowe and Jordan Palmer after Carson Palmer worked the first series of the second half.
"I was probably going to have Carson come back and play one more series - basically what I did with Fitzpatrick," Lewis said after the game. "But I had to go ahead and put Fitz in there and let him continue with the offensive group there and get some snaps."
Fitzpatrick has three NFL regular-season starts, the last one coming for the Rams during his rookie year in a 17-16 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 18, 2005 in which he completed 10 of 24 passes for 69 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Fitzpatrick, 25, heading into his fourth season, didn't pull any punches after Saturday's game.
"There was definitely a lack of intensity out there today," he said. "We have to come in and watch film, and everyone has to look themselves in the eye and figure out what we want to do. Do we want to go 7-9 or 8-8 again? Or, do we want to have a championship-caliber team? Hopefully, we come back on Monday and decide we want to be a championship team."
The Bengals could be at the point now where they may want to try and protect everybody from the preseason finale and focus the entire next two weeks on getting people together for a game plan for Baltimore and the Ravens' always formidable and flexible defense run by the estimable Rex Ryan.
JohnsonJust where Chad Johnson is in his rehab from the shoulder that popped out of its socket and popped back in is unclear. He won't play Thursday but he has been insistent that he'll play in the opener.
But one thing is clear: Johnson is going to be week-to-week. The Bengals have been encouraged by his progress but no one knows if falling to the ground again, or getting hit there, or reaching for a ball awkwardly could cause a re-injury that could mean season-ending injury.
Houshmandzadeh and Rudi Johnson have indicated they're going to play in Indy.
The dynamic behind Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh is also interesting with the guy expected to be the eventual No. 3 receiver, rookie Andre Caldwell, suffering from a sprained ankle with no real timetable.
The Bengals may have to make a not-so-great decision pending some health calls. Sign a couple of veteran receivers that need time to learn the offense, or grab waiver-wire guys that are going to be like the backups they already have.