CLEVELAND - Linebacker Vontaze Burfict returned to the lineup for the first time since he suffered a concussion three weeks ago and moved back into his old WILL spot when Jordan Evans (ankle) surfaced on head coach Marvin Lewis' inactive list before Sunday's game against the Browns.
That put Hardy Nickerson in the middle for the third straight game. Burfict had been in the middle for the three games before he got hurt but went back to his old spot Sunday.
As they reel from last week's loss to 1,000-yard wide receiver Tyler Boyd (knee), Cody Core drew his second start of the season, both in the last three weeks. Their starting receivers went into the game with 330 combined yards, 124 from Core and 206 from John Ross.
Right tackle Bobby Hart came down with a back issue in Saturday's practice, but he made the start. Joining Boyd and Evans on the inactive list was back-up cornerback Tony McRae with a hamstring injury, taking him off his key role in the kicking game as a gunner covering punts.
Also inactive were back-ups: cornerback KeiVarae Russell, tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, tight end Jordan Franks and defensive end Kasim Edebali.
Running back Joe Mixon, needing five yards for 1,000, came into the game a bit under the weather with an illness that appeared to be going around the Bengals traveling party.