Updated: 6 p.m.
A shock wave went through Bengaldom on Friday a few hours before the Bengals boarded their charter to San Diego when the man regarded to be their most indispensable player on defense the past several weeks came up injured at practice.
Listed as limited and questionable on the Friday injury report, starting WLB Vontaze Burfict suffered an ankle injury and his status for Sunday's game (4:25 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) is up in the air. Burfict, the NFL's leading tackler, has played about 97 percent of the snaps this season as a key two-way player against the run and pass in what has been a Pro Bowl–type season in the wake of the season-ending injuries to Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins and Leon Hall, the club's best cover cornerback.
Ruled out for the second straight week is right guard Kevin Zeitler (foot) after he missed another week of practice. But he is walking well enough now that he could be back for next week's game at Paul Brown Stadium against the Colts.
The Bengals linebacking corps just hasn't been able to get settled all year. Four backers are on injured reserve and the Bengals are finally welcoming back middle linebacker Rey Maualuga this week after he missed the last three games with a sprained knee and concussion.
Burfict has yet to miss a game in his two seasons and if he can't go his replacement is going to be most likely Vinny Rey. Rey has played extremely well in place of Maualuga and is three weeks removed from becoming the first Bengal in history to have three sacks and an interception in the same game.
It's a huge game for the linebackers because of the matchup with the NFL's top receiver out of the backfield in Chargers running back Danny Woodhead. The challenge without Burfict would be to come up with another backer besides Rey in coverage. Maualuga has played some in the nickel package with Burfict, but usually plays just first and second downs.
Linebacker Michael Boley, who returned last week after missing two games with a hamstring injury, is listed as probable when he went full Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday.
Nickel back Chris Crocker (hamstring) only went limited Friday after going full the two previous days, but is probable. So is backup wide receiver Brandon Tate, the team's punt and kick returner who must have also hurt his ankle Friday. He surfaced on the injury report listed as not practicing but probable.
For the Chargers, Pro Bowl tight end Antonio Gates (hamstring) and long-time center Nick Hardwick (neck) went full in practice Friday and are probable after not practicing Wednesday or Thursday.
Starting wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe, chest) is questionable after not practicing all week. So is starting outside backer Jarret Johnson, who went limited this week after hand surgery. Left tackle D.J. Fluker (knee) went limited Friday after full go Wednesday and Thursday and is probable.