Updated: 4:15 p.m.
Bengals safety Roy Williams has missed two of the last three games with a bruised forearm and has missed the first two practices of this week as he grapples with the pain of a severe bone bruise. And he's calling himself day-to-day, not knowing when he'll be able to go.
"That's it. When I come back I'm going to be in pain," he said after Thursday's practice.
Williams originally hurt the arm in a practice the week of the Oct. 4 Cleveland victory and was inactive. Then playing with a double pad he took a shot on the arm during the Oct. 11 win in Baltimore and played sparingly in the second half and was inactive Oct. 18 in the Houston loss.
The concern is that it is the same forearm that he broke twice last year in Dallas and had two plates inserted each time. After he broke it covering a kickoff against Philadelphia in the second game of the year, he came back a month later and broke it in another place and missed the rest of the year. But there appears to be no problem with the plates and there apparently isn't a fracture. He's just waiting for the pain to subside "and I don't know when that is going to be," he said.
"It's just a matter of him getting his strength back," Zimmer said. "(It hurts) when he hits. And that's his game."
"It's tough being on the sidelines when you're calling out the plays and you can't help," said Williams, an eight-year veteran who had missed only one game before last season. "I wish I was in there."
Williams' absence corresponds with the rise in big plays against the Bengals defense. After giving up five plays of 20 yards or more against the Texans, the Bengals now have allowed a league-leading 25 snaps of plus-20-yard plays. Which infuriates defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, but he's not pointing the finger.
"It's not one guy, it's a combination," he said after Thursday's practice. "If it was one guy, we'd get him out of there."
Zimmer, by the way, is fuming over the way the defense played against Houston, partricularly allowing about 150 yards in screens: "Good defenses tackle. We didn't tackle well last week. We didn't do anything well last week." The big plays bug him for a lot of reasons, including the fact they were very good against limiting the plus 20-yarders last year.
"It's not bombs," he said. "For the most part we're covering the route, but we're not finishing the route."
INJURY UPDATE: Four defensive starters sat out Thursday's practice when defensive tackles Domata Peko (knee) and Tank Johnson (foot) as well as Wiliams (forearm) and end Jonathan Fanene (illness) didn't dress. The plan last week with Johnson, battling plantar fasciitis, was to work him Wednesday, back him off the rest of the week, and get him ready for Sunday. That looks to be the same plan.
» Complete Thursday Injury report
Rookie right tackle Andre Smith may be advancing from badminton to tennis. After not doing much of anything in the first half hour of Wednesday's practice, he got in a blocking drill Thursday. But offensive line coach Paul Alexander indicated Wednesday that Smith would get more significant work next week, which is the bye. Like Wednesday, he was listed as limited.
SLANTS AND SCREENS
» Bengals punter Kevin Huber had to laugh. He has faced the NFL's leading punt returner and two of the top four and now "only" the Bears' Devin Hester stands between him and a much-needed bye week.
"Yeah. 'Only' Devin Hester," Huber said before Thursday's practice. "When you think of a return man, you think of Devin Hester. We're just watching him on film and he's an explosive player. He's not only fast, but he's got quick moves."
Huber, an All-American out of the University of Cincinnati and fifth-round pick, keeps learning. Ever since Josh Cribbs nearly beat the Bengals in Cleveland with a 50-yarder on what looked to be an innocuous ball down the middle of the field, Huber is getting better at two of the things that weren't so important in college: Directional punting and hang time.
"If they're pinned on the sideline, there's not much they can do," Huber said. "But if you if crank one down the middle ... the big returns so far on us is I've put the ball in the middle of the field."
With everyone virtually able to leave scrimmage at the point of the snap in college, Huber says he had nine gunners compared to two in the NFL making it a different game. Particularly against the elite and Hester is all of that. He's pretty much just returning punts, where he's sixth in the league and has returned seven for touchdowns in his career. He's looking for his first one since '07.
» This is why it's hard to make any kind of significant deadline trade in the NFL. Except for the horrific few, pretty much 26 teams have a shot at the playoffs. That's how many have at least two wins.
An ESPN.com report infers that the Bengals offered a first- or second-round pick to the Cowboys for tight end Martellus Bennett, a second-round pick in 2008 known as good blocker improving as a receiving threat. But the Bengals aren't the only ones that think they can win now and are trying to beef up for a run. Dallas is 3-2 and owner Jerry Jones has no designs on 2010 yet.
"Had I not thought that we needed that player right now as opposed to pushing forward in consideration for picks in the future, then I would have taken the pick option on it rather than the player," Jones told ESPN.com.
» Running back Bernard Scott says he saw Bears kick returner and former Abilene Christian teammate Johnny Knox run a 4.2-something 40-yard dash in college. "Handheld," he said. "He can fly." Scott says he has punched out a 4.3.