TRAINING CAMP 2008 INDEX: Features, news, notes, video, photos, schedule and more* * *
Updated: 2:10 p.m.
GEORGETOWN, Ky. - After about a two-week absence because of a hamstring issue, Bengals running back Rudi Johnson says he'll return to practice Wednesday night at Georgetown College and play in Sunday night's Paul Brown Stadium preseason opener against the Lions.
JohnsonJohnson says the hamstring tightened up on him after he went through the heavy running of the first two sets of two-a-day practices during the first week of training camp. He said he brought it back slow because he believes he came back too soon from the hamstring injury he suffered in the third game of the regular season last year and was the reason he was limited to nine starts and a career-low 2.9 yards per carry.
"It could have been a pinch or anything, I was going to be careful," Johnson said Wednesday on his way to lunch. "Got to be smart. You live and learn a little bit. I came back too soon a few times last year. But when I came back too soon the first time, that was it for the rest of the year."
SLANTS AND SCREENS
Johnson hosted the injured guys at his Cincinnati home Monday night for a viewing of the Bengals 20-17 victory in Green Bay. Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh was there and he indicated Wednesday that he'll probably be sidelined for Sunday, but that he could start practicing as soon as Thursday.
"Today and tomorrow are big days for me," Houshmandzadeh said. "I haven't run-run yet and we'll see how it feels. I'm not practicing today, but if I practice tomorrow I probably won't play (Sunday)."
Houshmandzadeh, who has also been out about two weeks with a tight hamstring, says he came into camp dehydrated after a heavy travel schedule. Like Johnson, he learned a lesson in 2003 when his efforts to get back on the field after suffering a hamstring injury in the preseason finale backfired and he nearly got cut during a year he only got in two games and didn't have a catch.
"If I come back too soon," he said, "I'll miss 30, 40 percent of the season."
NFL Network reported Tuesday night that the Bengals still keep having internal talks about bringing back troubled wide receiver Chris Henry even though he'll miss the first four games of this season with his third NFL suspension. There have been no indications that a signing is imminent.
Houshmandzadeh thinks the Bengals already have weapons with running back Chris Perry and tight end Ben Utecht.
"I think we can win without him and I think we can win with him. Chris can play football," Houshmandzadeh said. "I don't want to get into it that much because I think it's unfair to a certain degree. It would mean somebody who has busted their tail and been here the whole time would be out of a job. I guess what it boils down to is (the other receivers) have to play. If they show the team they can make plays, there'd be no need to bring him back."
Perry, who led the team in rushing Monday (42 yards on 11 carries), says he's going to work on one thing against Detroit after running for the first time in a game in more than 600 days.
"I've got to pick up my feet," he said. "I'm tired of getting tackled by the ankles."
After watching the film, new defensive coordinator Mike Zimmersaid he was pleased by his team's run fits and thought the 5.2 yards per rush against them was skewed a bit because of two long runs. He said he made two mistakes in his Bengals debut. Once he didn't push the button on the radio helmet and couldn't call a play in time. The other time he called a nickel scheme with dime personnel.
"I yelled at myself," said Zimmer, who plans to stay on the sidelines during games.
After Wednesday's practice, the Bengals have one last workout in front of fans in Thursday's 3-4:30 p.m. session. After a closed practice Friday, the team breaks camp.
Following two summers of setting attendance records, Georgetown officials say they are looking at about a 50-percent drop and with two dates left are looking at an estimated total of between 25,000-30,000.
"The second week was better than the first and that never happens," said Eric Ward, the school's athletic director. "We expected the decrease, but we expected only about 20 percent."
He says these numbers haven't been seen since Marvin Lewis' first season as coach in 2003, the last time the team came off a losing season until this one. Ward always correlates crowds directly to how the Bengals are doing on the field and their ensuing expectations.
Plus, the economy, gas prices, and the late reporting date on a Monday combined to cut the crowds virtually in half.
But Ward says the numbers won't have much of an impact when the sides talk about re-upping after 2009.
"We didn't make as much money as projected," Ward said. "But the thing you can never truly put a price on is the relationship with an NFL team and what that means on your sign."