Pushing (up) for opener

Updated: 8:10 p.m.

Rudi Johnson went back to practice.

T.J. Houshmandzadeh tried it.

Even though Chad Johnson proudly did 21 pushups for the media on his injured shoulder, he didn't but said he could play in Thursday's preseason finale. He did run routes without a helmet during opening drills.

And Carson Palmer, sporting a small bandage on his broken nose, had the day off and it's looking more and more like he won't play this week in Indianapolis.

Wide receiver Chris Henry practiced for the first time since he rejoined the team last week.

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Houshmandzadeh

But all eyes are on who can play Sept. 7 in the regular-season opener against that buzzsaw defense in Baltimore. All but Henry (NFL suspension) are being counted on, although Houshmandzadeh isn't willing to say much about the hamstring that has iced him since early in training camp until he practiced Monday and had it checked Tuesday.

He ignored speculation he's "sandbagging" because there is nothing new on a contract extension.

"I don't care what people think about that," Houshmandzadeh said. "If I was a rookie, would I have come back and practiced? Yeah and I would have got hurt again.

"Honestly, I think you never know when you're ready to play. That might sound weird, but with a hamstring, you always feel it so you don't know if what you're feeling is something you're going to feel, or if it's something you have to pay attention to."

Houshmandzadeh and head coach Marvin Lewis have been sparring over when he should return. Lewis said Houshmandzadeh needs more time than he thinks to get ready, but Houshmandzadeh said, "He's wrong. But he's a coach, he has to say that."

"I haven't missed a month of practice, but I guess in the football world that's dog years," Houshmandzadeh said. "You miss a week and you figure you should be ready to go and that's just not the way your body works."

But Houshmandzadeh isn't kidding anybody. He knows it's time to get back out there.

The question of the next 13 days is if the club's top skill players have enough time to get ready together after not being on the field together since the Dec. 30 win at Miami during last year's regular-season finale.

"About a week; that's what we need," Houshmandzadeh said. "Obviously the reason I wanted to get back this week was to throw with Carson. It's ironic, huh? The week I come back, he can't practice. It's a sign. Maybe I should heed it and I shouldn't practice until he does. They say those are warnings."

Houshmandzadeh said he was looking to make a few catches from Palmer Thursday night, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. Still Houshmandzadeh is confident all they need is a week because "we know the offense. We should be able to do it. Nothing's new."

Chad Johnson jammed his feet into his locker and angled his arms down on his stool and executed the pushups on what ESPN.com is reporting as a torn left labrum.

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Johnson

But nothing has changed. While Johnson said he would need surgery if the shoulder pops out again (and that is presumed to be a season-ending procedure), he said "it's unlikely."

But, it's the kind of injury where people have had it pop out in their sleep. So he is literally snap-to-snap, and says he won't need the surgery "if I make it through."

Wearing a harness on his shoulder and his ankles taped as if he was going to go through a full practice, Johnson said he's talked to 10 players who have played seasons with the injury. Among them are Kellen Winslow, Donte Stallworth and Brian Westbrook.

"All guys that catch the ball," he said.

He said he wanted to play Thursday night, but Johnson said head coach Marvin Lewis told him he didn't want him getting hurt in another preseason game.

"How many months is that?" Chad Johnson asked of the Miami finale and when told eight, he said, "That's no different than when Brad Pitt and Angelina are filming a movie and it takes that (amount of) time when they get back together to have kids. It will be the same when we get back on the field together. We're going to produce.

"Two or three days. Like riding a bike. You never forget."

Like Houshmandzadeh, Rudi Johnson has been fighting a hamstring problem since early in training camp. Johnson says he's not worried about getting timed up for the regular season despite not getting hit by another team until Thursday.

"I'll play, but I don't know how much; it depends on Marvin," Rudi said.

Right end Antwan Odom, who has been sidelined with a sprained foot since the first day of training camp, says he's going to run on the field for the first time this week but not play until the opener.

Also back after being out nearly all camp was end Eric Henderson.

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