Updated: 4:50 p.m.
With strong sales Wednesday evening and Thursday, the Bengals drew close enough to a Sunday sellout that the NFL extended the TV deadline by 24 hours to Friday at 1 p.m. If they can get about 3,000 tickets sold by then, Sunday's 1 p.m. against Houston at Paul Brown Stadium will be televised locally.
"We thank our fans for stepping up with a good run of support the last few days, bringing us close enough to get this extension," said Katie Blackburn, Bengals executive vice president. "We are continuing to work to lift the blackout. It's unclear if we will make it -- we have more than 3000 tickets to go -- but we have great fans and hope we can reach the level that allows our sellout streak to continue."
The Bengals have sold out their last 46 consecutive regular-season and postseason games, breaking a franchise-record streak of 43 that was set at Riverfront Stadium between 1988 and 1992.
If the game is sold out by 1 p.m. Friday, it will be televised live in the Bengals home market on CBS affiliates Channel 12 in Cincinnati, Channel 7 in Dayton, Ohio, and Channel 27 in Lexington, Ky.
PRACTICE UPDATE: The Bengals moved inside Paul Brown Stadium to work on the FieldTurf on a damp, chilly 45-degree day but it was only overcast and not raining. Running back Brian Leonard (groin) didn't practice for a second straight day but worked with the trainers and strength staff on the side going through rigorous rehab. Right tackle Andre Smith (foot), out this week, continued to mirror some offensive line drills on the side while wearing a helmet. Also out again Thursday was defensive end Frostee Rucker (ankle).
After practicing full go Wednesday, defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot) was limited Thursday. Safety Kyries Hebert (hip), limited on Wednesday, and wide receiver Jerome Simpson, out with an illness Wednesday, both had a full practice Thursday.
CED SAVORS: Cedric Benson lines up against his hometown team as the NFL rushing leader. But he very well could have ended up playing for the Texans this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.
On Thursday, Benson characterized his visit to Houston in free agency back in March as a very serious bid by the Texans until they bowed out of the bidding at what he called "the last minute."
"We were going back and forth and when things were looking more and more on the Bengals side, they kind of pulled out at the last minute," Benson said of the two-year, $7 million deal. "(The money) was about the same. Cincinnati's (offer) was better.
"There were a lot of positives coming back here. I had a year under my belt, I knew a lot of the guys, I took a big step in the playbook. I knew I could get off to a faster start. Not to say I wouldn't have made it happen there."
What has happened here may not have been able to happen there. Although the Texans would like to give Steve Slaton fewer carries, he did carry it 268 times in his rookie year last season for nearly 1,300 yards. This season Benson has 78 percent of the Bengals' carries with an NFL-best 111 and is on pace for 355 carries, the second most in Bengals history.
"I feel better as it goes," Benson said. "I wouldn't want it any other way."
THANKS, BUT: Tight end Daniel Coats didn't want to dispute his head coach, but … on Wednesday, Marvin Lewis said Coats didn't drop two balls that went off his hands Sunday in Baltimore. On Thursday, Coats said they would have been "spectacular catches," but that he should have made them. One came in the first half, the other on the final drive on what looked to be routes right down the seam.
"I feel like I should make those plays. I can make those plays," Coats said before Thursday's practice. "The first one kind of snuck up on me. The second one was my fault. I didn't attack it the way I should have. I ran the route lazy going back and looking at it. The way the game was played I should have made the play. Not to go against Marvin, (but) I consider them drops."