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Pregame Notebook: The Two Bengals Joes Poised For 49ers In Warmups; Awuzie Active

Joe Burrow in Sunday's pregame.
Joe Burrow in Sunday's pregame.

The Bengals inactive list for Sunday's game at Paul Brown Stadium against the 49ers held no surprises for a team decimated at linebacker and served as a 90-minute warning on the challenges facing the Cincinnati defense.

The Bengals staff glimpsed one snap last week where the 49ers ran a play with two wide receivers, two running backs and a tight end. Except none of those players were where the conventionally line up. And wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk lined as a tight end.

That's why 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme is sometimes referred to at times as a "position-less offense" in unleashing a devastating running attack.

That makes it tough for the Bengals to be without their usual defensive signal-caller. Middle linebacker Logan Wilson (out) is one of three of their top four linebackers missing Sunday. Markus Bailey (neck), also injured early last week against the Chargers, was inactive and Akeem, Davis-Gaither (foot) went on injured reserve at the end of October.

So while Joe Bachie gets his first NFL start in his 12th NFL game (eighth as a Bengal) during his second season, Germaine Pratt, the remaining starter, starts this Sunday the way he ended last Sunday.

With the green dot helmet signifying the communicator that talks to defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo until 16 seconds left on the play clock.

Pratt got a battlefield promotion against the Chargers when Wilson and Bailey went down early and since teams are allowed to have only two players with back-up helmets, they would have been out to lunch if Pratt had to leave the field.

But the reliable Pratt does what he always does and came through with the mental side of things. He was also superb physically by forcing one fumble and recovering another.

"His attention to detail, his film study, half the time in the meetings he doesn't let me finish a sentence," said linebackers coach Al Golden last week. "He knows what play is coming."

So Anarumo has no problem giving him the green dot.

"Germaine will handle it fine. He's a guy that definitely can handle it," Anarumo said Thursday. "He was good after we got through the first series and we were about this close away from having to signal if something would happen to him because the first time in my career I've heard of using up all the green dots. But we were close to that on Sunday."

Behind Pratt are the two starting safeties. Vonn Bell is on deck and Jessie Bates III is third. That has to be the order, because besides Bachie, the next two backers were called up from the practice squad and have yet to play for the Bengals this season, Keandre Jones and Austin Calitro.

"Those guys will do fine. The Austin Calitros … Bachie ball, we will get him out there rolling. Keandre Jones," Anarumo said. "The whole crew. Those guys are chomping at the bit. They are great guys, great players, they want the opportunity."

Bell is so smart and respected that he runs the Friday players-only defensive meeting. He'll wear the green dot if asked, but he's not a big fan.

"Sometimes you want to get your groove," Bell said. "Let's just let me play football. You talk to me all the time. Just let me go out there and have fun."

But Anarumo knows Bell would take one for the team and wear the dot if need be.

"Vonn just wants to run and hit and tell me, 'What is the next play, Coach?'" Anarumo said. "That's what we are. We are a group of guys, 'OK, Coach. It may not be my favorite thing but you are asking me to do it so I am going to do it.'"


Gameday Program - Regular Season Home Game 7 vs. San Francisco 49ers

SLANTS AND SCREENS: Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, who injured his foot making an interception late in the first half last Sunday and missed the rest of the game, worked out in pregame and was deemed active after only working limited on Friday.

But that spot is fluid. The Bengals didn't activate cornerback Trae Waynes from injured reserve on Saturday, indicating he had some kind of setback with his hamstring after they were encouraged how he looked in all three practices last week …

One bonus is that cornerback Darius Phillips is back after missing last week. Since he's both the kick and punt returner, wide receiver Trenton Irwin was inactive …

Other inactives Sunday were running back Chris Evans, tackle Fred Johnson, defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin and defensive end Khalid Kareem …

Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had no glove or splint on his dislocated throwing pinky and appeared to throw free and easy in warmups …

Running back Joe Mixon, who didn't practice all last week because of an illness, bounded out of the locker room runway for warmups in T-Shirt and shorts despite the 45-degree temperature that figures to dip into the 30s for the second half…