BY GEOFF HOBSON
Bengals all-time leading receiver Carl Pickens won't play against his old team Sunday. The Titans decided not to activate Pickens with a strained hamstring so he can be ready for Tennessee's next three games against Jacksonville, Baltimore and Washington.
The Bengals also had to make a game-time decision in sitting down rookie middle linebacker Armegis Spearman with his nagging sore shoulder.
Spearman, a rookie free agent, had played well in place of the injured Brian Simmons during the past three games. But now Adrian Ross, a third-year outside linebacker, has to move inside to get his first significant amount of time in the middle.
Pickens' injury didn't stop his boldness.
About two hours before the game, he walked into the Bengals' locker room to chat with some of his former teammates. Then he came back out on the field to visit some more, and then went into the locker room saying he was leaving to get dressed.
Also inactive for the Titans is left tackle Brad Hopkins. Replacing him was former Colts starter Jason Mathews, who played well last week against the Giants when Hopkins was injured. Titans running back Eddie George rushed for 125 yards and quarterback Steve McNair was sacked just twice.
With wide receiver Yancey Thigpen also inactive, the Titans go into the game with starters Derrick Mason (11 catches) and Chris Sanders (7) as the only wideouts who have catches this season.