Thursday update: Line game; Coffman glad to see '09 end; Crocker sits again


Andrew Whitworth

Updated: 7:50 p.m.

This is Sandra Bullock vs. Susan Boyle.

That big-time Hollywood Vikings defensive line of Jared Allen and the Williams brothers of bash vs. the out-of-nowhere Bengals offensive line that is hoping to blind side the critics in Sunday's showdown that will be decided low down in the trenches.

"I talked to Marvin (Lewis) last week and tried to put in for a vacation week this week," said offensive line coach Paul Alexander after Thursday's practice. "It didn't go through."

All kidding aside, Alexander knows how well his guys must play if the 9-3 Bengals are going to clinch the AFC North with a victory over the 10-2 Vikings in the raucous Metrodome. It is like the man said. The man that Alexander calls as good as any left tackle in the NFL.

"This is going to be a line game," said Andrew Whitworth. "Both sides of the ball. A line game."

"This is the best defensive line we're going to play in the toughest situation you can ask for. One way or the other when this game is over, we'll be better," Alexander said. "It's as good a defensive line as I've seen in years. You find out exactly where you are."

Alexander thinks his guys are battle-tested for a dome game after wins on the road in Green Bay, Baltimore and Pittsburgh. "Because we were able to harness that type of inner energy they need."

But he told his team this week about a trip he made to the Super Bowl a few years ago.

"What was amazing was all the things going on," Alexander said. "There were all kind of things flying overhead. Fireworks. Celebrities on the sidelines and all over the place. But just being able to focus and play. I think that's the kind of game it's going to be. You block your guy. That's what the game is. If we can go in there and play with that type of poise and focus, we'll be fine."

Not only does the Bengals line have to contend with Vikings talent but also with communication issues in one of the loudest venues in the league. Alexander won't reveal how he'll combat it, but he says don't look for his players to hold hands like some lines have been known to do.

Even though this line doesn't have many games working together, most everyone has had experience in a dome. Center Kyle Cook and right tackle Dennis Roland are the guys that haven't started a regular-season game in one, but this line did work in the Louisiana Superdome during the preseason. Whitworth and starting left guard Nate Livings played there during college at LSU and both have played indoors in Indianapolis in the NFL.

Evan Mathis, who rotated with Livings in the second and fourth quarters last week, started 16 games for the Panthers in 2006 when Carolina lost an overtime game in Minnesota and won at the domes in Atlanta and New Orleans.

Under Lewis since 2003, the Bengals are 2-4 in domes or stadiums with retractable roofs.

CHASE ENDS '09 CHASE: Bengals rookie tight end Chase Coffman is looking at a two-month rehab when doctors perform arthroscopic surgery to clean up bone spurs in his ankle. The club mercifully ended the season of its late third-round draft pick earlier this week by putting him on injured reserve to make room for defensive tackle Shaun Smith.

Coffman, who admitted Thursday he never got over the broken foot he suffered on the last snap of his college career, has limited range of motion in the ankle that prevented him from being able to push off or plant his foot. Coffman, the most prolific receiving tight end in NCAA history while at Missouri, broke the outside bone of the foot on the Tigers' last snap in overtime in the Alamo Bowl.

"This is a chance for me to get it back healthy and be 100 percent for the offseason workouts," said Coffman, who was never active for a game. "The (foot) just healed slowly. The whole process was a rush job, from the bowl game to getting the surgery and trying to get ready for the draft. Now I'm just trying to get it squared away with some time so I can be full go in the spring. It's been a rough year."

» With head coach Marvin Lewis taking the Bengals up to Mason, Ohio's indoor facility for a second straight practice Thursday, the conventional wisdom is they'll work outside Friday if the forecast holds up. Thursday's bone-chilling temperatures in the teens whipped by high winds were supposed to give way to 32 degrees Friday. Still brisk, but not windy and Friday is usually a shorter practice not going much past 90-95 minutes.

» Safeties Chris Crocker (ankle) and Kyries Hebert (knee) didn't practicefor the second straight day and were the only players Thursday that didn't work. Nickel back Morgan Trent (knee) went from not going Wednesday to limited Thursday. 

» With Brian Kelly leaving the University of Cincinnati for Notre Dame, a name that very well could resurface for the UC job is Ravens quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson, the man that recruited Carson Palmer to USC. When Jackson was the Bengals receivers coach in 2006, he interviewed for the job Kelly got.

» Bengals middle linebacker Dhani Jones is displaying his photography skills during this almost picture-perfect season. The Country Club of Cincinnati, 3209 Madison Road, is running an exhibition starting Friday and ending Jan. 9 entitled "Dhani Jones: Senegal." As part of his Travel Channel program, Dhani Tackles the Globe,  Jones took pictures during his trip to the west African nation.

» Percy Harvin, the rookie Vikes playmaker at kick return and wide receiver, missed his secondstraight day of practice Thursday. ProFootballTalk.com reported he was out with the headaches that have bothered him for most of his life.   

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