Updated: 5:40 p.m.
With a not-so-great vibe surrounding wide receiver A.J. Green's status for Sunday's game in Baltimore (1 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), after he sat out his second straight practice Thursday, Andre Caldwell knows the Bengals need him and Jerome Simpson to repeat their performances in last year's finale on the road if Green can't play. That's when Caldwell had a career-high 94 yards on seven catches that included a huge 39-yard bomb in the last drive that gave the Bengals a chance to win and Simpson had his second straight 100-yard game with 123 yards on 12 catches.
Cornerback Adam Jones (groin) returned to practice Thursday for the first time in eight days and was limited. So was left Carlos Dunlap (hamstring) for the second straight day.
Caldwell said before Thursday's practice that he's working with quarterback Andy Dalton on their timing on his outside routes when Green (knee) isn't in the game and Caldwell moves from the slot to a become a wideout. When Green is healthy, Caldwell is pretty much only taking snaps from the slot.
"I don't work on it in practice that much, so I'm probably going to be out there a lot more," Caldwell said of practice. "I feel more comfortable outside. I like be out there. I feel like I can use my speed and versatility a little more out there."
It has been tough sledding for Caldwell and Simpson lately. Even with Green out of last Sunday's game for the last three quarters, they combined for just three catches for 25 yards and Simpson got blanked on four targets. Caldwell hasn't had a catch longer than 14 yards all season and since Simpson broke an 84-yard pass in Denver in the second game of the year he's had two balls longer than 20 yards. He's had just four catches for 57 yards in the last three weeks, although one was for a touchdown in Seattle.
Green, tight end Donald Lee (foot), and linebacker Dontay Moch (illness) were the only players not suited up for practice. Besides Jones, the other players that didn't work Wednesday but practiced Thursday were cornerback Nate Clements (knee), safety Chris Crocker (knee), defensive lineman Frostee Rucker (knee), running back Brian Leonard (knee), wide receiver Andrew Hawkins (hamstring), center Kyle Cook (foot), and defensive lineman Jon Fanene (illness).
Hawklns, Fanene, Crocker and Cook went full go. Rucker, Leonard and Wilson were limited, as was right end Michael Johnson, but not because of injury.
Before practice, Caldwell indicated he and Dalton are going to spend some extra time together.
"I don't get as many reps outside like I do inside, so this is going to be a challenge for me and I'm going to be up for it," Caldwell said.
Caldwell knows he's lacking consistency. He just has to look at tape from the last two years in Baltimore. In fact, he just has to look at the last minute.
In 2009, with the Ravens petrified about Chris Henry beating them deep, Caldwell snuck past the secondary on a pattern all four receivers ran vertical routes and caught a 20-yard touchdown pass with 22 seconds left for the win. Last year he ran past cornerback Lardarius Webb with 49 seconds left for a 39-yard play and then made an extremely tough nine-yard catch over the middle at the 2 with 19 seconds left and held on when Hall of Fame middle linebacker Ray Lewis popped him. The Bengals couldn't score and lost, 13-7, but those plays give Caldwell what he calls "a confidence boost."
"They've got a little less experience than Pittsburgh at the corner position," Caldwell said of the Ravens. "They have great safeties. We think they might be a little banged up on the back end and maybe we can spread them."
He said he goes in knowing "No. 21 (Webb)" knows I can I get past him … we did it down there last year. I know I've got it in me. I just have to bring it on Sunday."
In Baltimore, middle linebacker Ray Lewis (foot) sat out for the second straight day Thursday, but no one thinks he's going to miss Sunday. BengalsKiller Lee Evans, the former Bills wide receiver, was limited for the second straight day with the ankle that has wiped out the last seven games for him. There is some belief he's close to coming back this week, or at least this is his best chance.
The Bengals had to figure that. In four games against them, Evans has 21 catches for 445 yards and three TDs for a 21.2 average.