Mohamed Sanu dons the No. 15 of Jets QB Tim Tebow during Wednesday's practice.
Updated: 6:15 p.m.
As fate would have it for the Bengals in their last practice before Friday's 7:30 p.m. preseason opener at Paul Brown Stadium (11:35 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12) the kid from Jersey wore the No. 15 jersey that Tim Tebow is bringing from Jersey to play backup quarterback for the Jets.
"Yeah, I think so," rookie wide receiver Mohamed Sanu said after Wednesday's practice when asked if he throws the ball better than Tebow. "I've seen him throw."
Sanu took about half-a-dozen snaps in a No. 15 pullover as the scout team quarterback in an effort to simulate the 6-3, 236-pound Tebow's size and style in the Wildcat that the Jets ran against the Bengals to perfection with wider receiver Brad Smith in the final two games of the 2009 season.
It took one throw for the 6-2, 210-pound Sanu, a third-round pick, to bring back the old days at South Brunswick High School in New Jersey. He led fellow rookie receiver Marvin Jones down the middle on a pretty good looking 40-yard floater as Jones came up short and watched it drop in front of him.
"I felt good. I felt like I got a good grip on it. It got stuck on my glove, but it still went where I wanted it to go," Sanu said. "I guess he didn't expect to me to throw it that far. I didn't know how fast he was running. I just saw his head, so I put it in there."
No, Sanu doubts Tebow wears a glove when he works.
"I would think he would be more of quarterback's quarterback," Sanu said. "I can throw with and without gloves."
But Sanu mostly ran the ball Wednesday. A few draws. A few options. It certainly wasn't exotic stuff to him. After playing quarterback, wide receiver and safety, Sanu's last high school game came as quarterback in the Nike New York-New Jersey All-Star Classic at Rutgers Stadium, where his 55-yard touchdown pass helped beat New York, 33-22.
He played his college ball at Rutgers and in his sophomore season he ran the Wildcat a bunch. And he's no stranger doing it in this town. When he was a junior he threw a 51-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the game at the University of Cincinnati.
But he said Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden hasn't approached him about any Wildcat formations. No doubt he wants Sanu to get settled at receiver first.
"I've done it before," he said.
And thinking back to the ball to Jones, he allowed, "I've still got it."
The big question is if Tebow is going to get the ball in the red zone during the drives of starter Mark Sanchez. The New York scribes doubt it because the Jets have taken only one Wildcat snap all camp, although new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano wouldn't rule it out against the Bengals.
HOLMES OUT: Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes is a scratch for Friday night because of injured ribs, according to head coach Rex Ryan via ProFootballTalk.com. The site also said Ryan plans to play his starters for about a quarter and that Tebow and the first wave of backups are going to play about two quarters. Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and defensive tackle Sione Pouha are also out and maybe right tackle Wayne Hunter.
NO MORE DRAMA: There's even drama with Obama now.
But not with the Bengals, which in the NFL lexicon used to translate directly to "drama."
It seems to be everywhere else, though. Covering the Saints is like covering Watergate instead of water breaks. In Miami wide receiver Chad Johnson riddled HBO with more F bombs than Tony Soprano. And in Upstate New York the Jets team the Bengals play Friday night is embroiled in a maddening day-long soap opera driven by Tebow, Twitter, tabloids and T-Rex.
"We are going to play the headline team, so it's good," head coach Marvin Lewis said Wednesday. "But they deserve it, they are a good football team that is well coached, they have very good players. They were disappointed in their season last year just like we were disappointed in our 2010 season. They didn't fall back like we did, but they were disappointed. Now they've got something to prove just like we feel we've got something to prove."
But it is quite definitely two different teams going about their business in two totally different ways. If the Jets have Tebow, the Bengals have understated Andy Dalton, their Pro Bowl quarterback. If the Jets have Ryan, the Bengals have Lewis, who hands out information like the CIA and downplays everything from playoff prospects to wrist injuries, and banned Twitter without a revolt.
"We took care of the drama the very first Thursday, didn't we? Eliminated it. That's a good thing," Lewis said.
And if the Jets have a veteran cornerback who thinks he's their second-best receiver, then the Bengals have a veteran cornerback trying to get back to his Pro Bowl ways at cornerback.
Terence Newman played his first nine seasons under the big tent in Dallas, where a media circus is a way of life and where he was on Hard Knocks twice. But around these parts, he's just enjoying the game.
"The media expects you to win the Super Bowl and when you lose for the first time, they start to count you out," Newman said of Dallas. "There's just a ton of media. Here, football is important, but the media coverage just isn't so big. You can just go out and play and have fun and see what happens. I like it.
"I think being under the radar is a positive. You don't have to worry about all the outside stuff," said Newman, when asked if he thought those playoff-caliber teams in Dallas would have got to the playoffs if they played in a non-HBO environment.
"I don't know about that. But the whole perception that you have to be this and this is who you are on paper; you can't just go out and play the game. But when you have guys telling you (that) you should win the Super Bowl when you haven't played a game yet, I think it does hurt a little bit.
"All it is is more added pressure and some guys play better under pressure and some don't. There's already a lot of pressure in the game of football. You don't have to add to the pressure for anybody. That's what I like here."
Told of his old wide receiver's antics on the first segment of Hard Knocks Tuesday night, Lewis shook his head. He knows Johnson isn't a big curse guy.
"Then he is acting then. He's not being himself. He doesn't really curse, he's not a real curser," Lewis said.
Meanwhile, off stage, he thinks his guys are staying true to their lines.
"I think we got work at hand. I think we've had a good focus on what's ahead. I think our guys other than the rookie guys understand the steps along the way," Lewis said. "You bring a guy like (Travelle) Wharton in here, BenJarvus (Green-Ellis) in here. Jamaal (Anderson), Terence (Newman), Jason (Allen). These guys have played on other teams they know the steps along the way, they understand it so they are able to come in here and really add to it
"Donald Lee, who wasn't with us in training camp (last year) but obviously was part of the whole Packer run. We lot of guys with a lot of great experiences that they are able to draw down and draw back on and they are able to help lead the other guys through as well. I think everybody has that sense of purpose about them. Of, 'You know what, this is what's coming next. And let's get prepared for that as that time comes.' They are in a good way, good spots."
JETS ON WAY: Lewis says the Bengals are close to being fully healthy for Friday's 7:30 p.m. preseason opener against the Jets at Paul Brown Stadium (11:35 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 12).
Cornerback Adam Jones, running back Daniel Herron and defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga, who returned Tuesday from a variety of strains and pulls, go again Wednesday to see if they'll be ready. Cornerback Jason Allen is in the same boat, but he didn't work Tuesday and Lewis indicated he'll go Wednesday.
Cornerback Brandon Ghee seems to be the most significant injury on the roster with his wrist issue. In his last news conference before the opener, Lewis would only say he's "on the mend and he'll be evaluated in four weeks."
That means he's out for the preseason, heightening speculation that he's headed to some kind of injury list at the final cut down on Aug. 31. The Bengals have three options if they want to keep him: keep him on the roster, put him on the new eight-game injured reserve list or the season-ending injured reserve list.
Ghee hasn't been around, but running back Bernard Scott was at his locker, his hand also in a cast. He can't comment on the injury per Lewis's orders, but there seems to be a belief he'll be available shortly after the preseason.
Here is what Lewis wants to see Friday night, which isn't any different than what he wanted to see in his nine previous openers:
"The things I want us to do well are our overall playing tempo," Lewis said. "To make sure we get in and out of the huddles. That we understand what those huddles are for and why we have them so we can come to the line of scrimmage and know what we're doing. Play with great pad level and tempo and effort and finish."
And, for the 10th straight opener, Lewis was reluctant to say publicly how much that first group is going to play. He did say he doubted they'd play the entire first half, but indicated they'd have to look good.
"We'll see how we do, see how we're going," he said. "Give them certain goals to reach and if they reach them, they earn their way out or in, whatever way you want to look at it. It's a great opportunity for us to look at some guys that haven't played as much."
The Bengals are counting on it being a lot smoother than last year's opener in Detroit, when quarterback Andy Dalton made his NFL debut after just two weeks with offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. The first team worked to the two-minute warning for only a field goal and 107 yards as Dalton hit 11 of 14 passes for 69 yards.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth remembers two weeks after that, when the Bengals went on the road to play these Jets in their third preseason game.
"The offense was so young and there was the installation of the new playbook and playing such a crazy defense," Whitworth said. "Lots of guys were a little nervous, a little jittery. We want to be able to go play with confidence, play with some swagger, play at a good tempo."