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Receivers at full strength

9-30-01, 4:10 p.m.


SAN DIEGO _ When backup free safety Darryl Williams' foot sprain didn't respond before Sunday's game, the Bengals decided to deactivate him for the first time in his six seasons with the club.

With Williams and backup rookie linebacker Riall Johnson (rib) inactive, the Bengals went into a game with more than four wide receivers for the first time this season. Danny Farmer and rookie T.J. Houshmandzadeh celebrated returns to their home of southern California by dressing for the first time in '01.

Houshmandzadeh, a seventh-round pick, hasn't been available since he

bruised his foot in the Aug. 10 pre-season game in Detroit. He could be used to spell Peter Warrick on punt returns during a typical sunny, sweltering Mission Valley afternoon that began with temperatures hovering at about 80 degrees.

Farmer could give Darnay Scott a blow at the split receiver spot and rookie Chad Johnson can relieve Warrick at flanker in a two-receiver set.

Marcellus Wiley, the Chargers' high-priced off-season acquisition, made his San Diego debut in a start at left defensive end. It's been a little more than three weeks since Wiley broke his foot and had a screw inserted.

The Bengals arrived at Qualcomm Stadium trying to rid themselves of the hex that has hung over them for 11 years. They are trying to go 3-0 and win in California, both for the first time since they went to the 1990 playoffs.

And could the Bengals be a victory away from a "Sports Illustrated," cover? The game between the teams who are each 28-53 since 1996 and are now suddenly 2-0 is the only game SI is staffing this week. NFL writer Mike Silver spent part of Saturday talking to some players before and after their meetings.

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