Ja'Marr Chase, still on a 1,210-yard pace, returned to the field Wednesday for the first time since injuring his hip in the Oct. 23 win over Atlanta and was listed as limited after practice.
Still, it seems like his availability for Sunday's game (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12) in Tennessee is hovering day-to-day.
"He's done all the things we've asked him to do. He has done a great job with the trainers in there. Everything has been positive to this point. We've got to take it day to day through these practices," said head coach Zac Taylor before he saw Chase work Wednesday.
Chase was told to stay off the hip for a month and so here he is. Taylor said contact isn't a concern.
"It's just more about him being on the ground, running, going through the things through, whether it be on a rehab field or a practice field, getting ready for Sunday," Taylor said. "I can't define exactly what we need it to look like. We'll just take it day-to-day and have all those conversations and make the best decision for all of us."
Taylor said Chase won't have to be in a full-blown practice to pass muster.
"We get as much work often times with routes on air against the scout team defense," Taylor said. You get really good work. I can't speak for Joe (Burrow) but I'd be willing to bet that he'd tell you he gets as good work as anything just with routes on air and group installment and timing and stuff like that."
Running back Joe Mixon remained in concussion protocol Wednesday while backup nose tackle Josh Tupou (calf) returned to practice for the first time in a month and was limited. Running back Chris Evans (knee) and safety Dax Hill were also limited after not playing in Pittsburgh. Starting nose tackle D.J. Reader (ankle), who missed six games with a knee injury before retuning Sunday, was limited Wednesday.
THE PLAY: Bengals backup linebacker Clay Johnston, who should have the key to the city after making one of the biggest plays in Bengals history, relaxed for a few minutes with free safety Jessie Bates III before Wednesday's practice as they reminisced about last year's AFC Divisional 19-16 win in Tennessee that put them in the AFC title game.
"Big play," said Bates, nodding at Johnston and his stoning of The King.
"What about this guy?" said Johnston, nodding at Bates and his interception of quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the first play of the game. "Big play."
They make neither play and they probably don't win.
"Right. There were like five of them," Johnston said. "Mike Hilton (interception). Logan (Wilson's interception) …
"D.J. (Reader) stopping everything," Bates said.
You get the idea. But here's the thing. Johnston has played one snap from scrimmage since that snap. And that's the only snap he played from scrimmage in the postseason. And it wasn't really from scrimmage because it was a two-point conversion.
"I don't know about that," said Johnston when someone told him it was The Play. "It's my only play. It still might be."
But this guy's all football player. He's a valued special teamer who is second on the team with five tackles in the kicking game. And it will be recalled he had 20 tackles in a preseason game this year he played 66 scrimmage snaps and 12 on teams.
"It was fun. I enjoyed it. I'm just glad we won," Johnston said of The Tackle.
Midway through the second quarter, the Titans had just tied the game at six on the monstrous Derrick Henry's three-yard touchdown run. The 6-3, 247-pound Henry had just returned from a foot injury that took a big gash out of his season, but was still King Henry with two rushing titles. When the Bengals were called for too many men on the ensuing extra point, the ball was moved between the one and the two and the Titans opted to go for two and suddenly Johnston, who was not on field-goal block, was called on to the field on the goal-line unit.
"Al Golden was yelling at me to get out there and I said, 'Yes sir,'" Johnston said of the former Bengals linebackers coach. "We did go over it in walk-through on Friday."
But nobody told him to do this. Which was from his right end position, streak across to the line of scrimmage, dive and trip up the NFL's most feared back shy of the goal line over his right tackle to keep it a 6-6 game and not make it 8-6. Which, as they say, was huge.
"I didn't think about it once," said Johnston of his plan. "I just said, 'King Henry is coming.' I honestly had no idea where he was going. I just knew he was going to get the ball. Because the ball is on the one-yards line and that's a big man. If is them, that's what I would have done. I had to dive. I was too far away."
Johnston didn't get the key to the city, but he did get a free meal at Buffalo Wings and Rings in Cincinnati not soon after that when a customer did recognize him.
"There's that guy," said Johnston, offering more proof you never know when the call is going to come.
SLANTS AND SCREENS: Henry, by the way, is healthy and up to his old tricks. He's leading the league again and already has 1,010 yards. The Bengals understand he wasn't up to par when they held him to 62 yards on 20 carries, but they still did play well.
"I think he's probably the biggest and he's just a tough runner. He's good side-to-side and there's really nothing he can't do as a runner," said middle linebacker Logan Wilson, whose interception of cornerback Eli Apple's tip in the last minute set up Evan McPherson's winning field goal in that game. "Then his size is what sets him apart from most backs in this league. He's just hard to bring down. You have to bring more than one hat to the ball at all times." …
Think it's going to come down to the red zone? The Bengals are ranked first in scoring inside the 20 and the Titans are second. The Bengals actually go into this game with a much better time of possession than the Titans (32:07-29:29), but the Titans are 11th running the ball while the Bengals are 28th.
"Whenever you play a team like this that likes to run the ball you know your possessions might be limited throughout the game, so you have to make the most out of them," Burrow said. "Obviously jumping out to an early lead will put their guys in a position maybe they're not used to be in, where maybe they don't want to be. That's our plan, but the game goes as the game goes. If we have to come back from a deficit that's what we'll have to do, but that's obviously not ideal." …
Titans defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, who had three sacks against them in the playoff game, also hasn't gone anywhere. He's got 6.5. Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan had this sobering assessment after practice:
"There's two tackles who play both the pass and run better than anyone else and that's Jeff Simmons and Aaron Donald."