Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers spoke Wednesday for the first time since a Hines Ward blindside block Oct. 19 ended his season with a broken jaw and he said, "What goes around comes around."
Although Rivers said he would have done the block if he could have, he left no doubt that he can't wait to play the Steelers again. Even now.
"Shoot cortisone in my face and I'll go," Rivers said. "It is what it is."
On the trip back to Pittsburgh, Ward texted Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco to pass along to Rivers that he was sorry and that he wasn't trying to hurt him or be cheap. The Ocho showed him the text, but Rivers continues to simmer.
"The play is over and I'll move on," Rivers said.
The last week has been a tough adjustment for the Bengals first-round pick. Except for a hamstring injury during his sophomore year at USC that cost him two games, Rivers can't remember being shelved.
"To start your career, and you've already lost one year, it's really depressing and disappointing," Rivers said.
"I'm going to continue to try and get better," Rivers said. "I'll hang around meetings, watch film and try to learn so I don't get behind the other guys. I can work out, but I can't strain (to hurt) the mouth."
Rivers, his jaw wired shut, is down to about 225 pounds after losing 12 on a diet of ice cream shakes and soups. He has the wires on for seven more weeks and then goes to rubber bands. A month or two after he gets off the wires, he says he can start eating steak. As he was led off the field he thought he had a broken tooth before X-Rays showed the jaw broken in two places.
He can lift weights and he'll he have to do a lot of it because he's getting used to soup.
"I had Progresso soups, but Campbell's is better," he said joking about an endorsement. "Chicken, but I had the beef noodle last night."
Ocho Cinco defended Ward knowing that he has been criticized in the past for his blocking.
"They try to call him a dirty player, maybe because he plays the game like a defensive player," The Ocho said. "There's not many receivers that play the game as violently as he does without the ball. That's what all coaches want. I'd probably be in the hospital at some point doing that sutff. I'm not built that way.
"That's the way you're suposed to do it. That's the way the game is supposed to be played," Ocho Cinco said. "I'm sure everybody is ready to get back at Hines. Hines plays at a higher level when he knows people are after him."
The Ocho passed the message.
"He was just playing football. He didn't mean to be cheap at all. That's the way Hines has always played the game. He just wanted to send his apology and he was sorry," he said.
Also Wednesday, Ocho Cinco respectfully disagreed with CBS' Boomer Esiason and Bill Cowher about head coach Marvin Lewis losing his team.
"The first person that would be lost would be me," he said. "Think about it ... but I've been upbeat, I've been positive. ... When things are going good, they feed off my energy. So things are going bad, (but) I'm still keeping that postive nature, maybe everyone is feeding off of that."
The Ocho suggested that the players are rallying to get a win for their embattled leader.
"I want them to win a game for themselves. Don't worry about me," Lewis said at his Wednesday news conference. "I'd like them to win a game for themselves would be the most imporant thing because they are putting in a lot of work and time and the coaches put in the work and the time. Their effort and their energy has been there. We've got to get it channeled in the right direction and positively for 60 minutes to win a football game. We can't have the lulls or the bad plays and if we do have a negative play, we've got to be able to come out of it and do a better job with that."
On Wednesday, Lewis said even the players that are limited this week in practice should be ready for the Jaguars Sunday as tight end Ben Utecht (chest), middle linebacker Corey Mays (ankle), and cornerback Jamar Fletcher (hamstring) return to practice. He also expected to sign a fullback to the practice squad with Reagan Maui'a (hamstring) on injured reserve.
Another sign that perhaps Lewis has kept his team out of the tank so far: A quick survey of the practice field Wednesday suggested that defensive tackle Domata Peko was the only starter not dressed in pads.
Later the Bengals did end up adding that fullback in J.D. Runnels. The 5-11, 240-pound Runnels, a third-year player out of Oklahoma, was a Bears' sixth-rounder in 2006 and was on their roster for all of 06 and had no carries in two games. He spent the 2007 season on injured reserve and was waived by the Bears this July 24 before he went to Tampa Bay for four days and got waived in mid-August.