Pre-Game Hits: Rawls out for Panthers; Preston Brown, Mike Johnson inactive

Thomas Rawls worked out pregame with running backs coach Kyle Caskey before he went on the inactive list.
Thomas Rawls worked out pregame with running backs coach Kyle Caskey before he went on the inactive list.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Bengals decided to go with two running backs Sunday against the Panthers when Thomas Rawls was iced and wide receiver Cody Core made his first appearance of the season to bulk up special teams.

It was a gamble given that Giovani Bernard's only backup was rookie Mark Walton, a fourth-round pick in his first NFL game after a preseason he rushed 22 times for 21 yards.

Middle linebacker Preston Brown (ankle) and right end Michael Johnson (knee) were inactive in a stroke of rarity. It was Brown's second straight miss after playing 65 straight and it was just the third Bengals game Johnson has missed in nine seasons. That meant right end Jordan Willis made his second NFL start and Hardy Nickerson made his second straight start in place of Brown and the fourth of his career.

No surprise that running back Joe Mixon (knee) and center Billy Price (foot) were out. Or that wide receiver Auden Tate and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi were out for the third straight game.

Back-up nose tackle Josh Tupou was active, joining Core, Walton and guard Christian Westerman in their first games of the season.

The Panthers started rookie cornerback Donte Jackson after he had been ruled questionable with a groin injury.

HENRY FAMILY VISITS: The Bengals hosted the family of the late Chris Henry during Saturday's team meal and on the pre-game sideline before Sunday's game. Henry, a Bengals wide receiver, was killed in a truck accident in Charlotte in December of 2009.

PANTHERS SECONDARY REELING: The Bengals may have had just two running backs, but the Panthers had just three safeties after they put starting strong safety Da'Norris Searcy on injured reserve before the game, when they promoted cornerback Josh Hawkins from the practice squad.

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