Updated: 7:10 p.m.
The fans at Paul Brown Stadium's 54th straight sellout are going to see some firsts when the Bengals open their home schedule in a Sunday 1 p.m. game (Cincinnati's Channel 12) against the Ravens.
The Red Zone Channel is going to be piped into the stadium so fans can view the latest scores from around the NFL and once every quarter a highlights package from current games is planned for the two JungleVision boards.
Plus, at various intervals fantasy football stats are to be posted on the East and West side boards running 200 feet across the bottom of the canopy section. The current top five kickers of the day, as well as the top 10 passers, rushers and receivers alternate with the usual info for the Bengals-Ravens game.
"The NFL is looking to enhance the fans' in-stadium experience with at-home elements," said Scott Simpson, JungleVision producer. "It's something we've been working on ever since the league directive came out at the March meetings. And we're going to continue to tweak it during the season to see how we can make it better. We have been listening to the fans."
The Red Zone Channel is going to be on the stadium's TV feed, so suite holders can view it as well as fans in both club lounges and on the concourses.
The Bengals, who haven't been blacked out since Nov. 9, 2003, can also be seen Sunday on Dayton's Channel 7 and Channel 27 in Lexington, Ky.
» After his first day of sharply cutting on his mid-foot sprain, running back Brian Leonard reported no pain Thursday morning: "It was barely sore at all, so I feel like I'm ready to go and I'll be really effective."
» The only player on the 53 not working Thursday appeared to be defensive lineman Jon Fanene (hamstring). WILL linebacker Keith Rivers (foot) was suited up in the uniform of the day (shoulder pads and shorts) after sitting out Wednesday. He was limited. After being limited Wednesday, running back Cedric Benson (shoulder) went full go.
For the Ravens, SAM linebacker Jarret Johnson (back) didn't practice after being limited Wednesday. Middle linebacker Ray Lewis (foot), wide receiver Anquan Boldin (thigh) and defensive tackle Terrence Cody (knee) were again limited. Tight end Todd Heap (shoulder) was limited after not working Wednesday.
» Leonard hasn't played since suffering the injury in the Aug. 8 preseason opener and a return against the Ravens on Sunday would be extra special because the other half of the best backfield in Rutgers history is on the other side in the person of the dangerous Ray Rice. They talk or text - mainly text - couple times a week.
"I always like to play against Ray. It's always nice to see him after the game and talk to him. I haven't texted him yet this week," Leonard said before Thursday's practice. "I knew he was going to be a good player in the NFL, but I didn't realize how quick he would pick up on it. It's hard for a running back coming into the league to pick up protections and be able to (block) a guy and shut him down and Ray's been doing that ever since he's been in the league. He never played third down in college."
Rice led all NFL backs with 78 catches last season, another surprise for Leonard, since he was the Scarlet Knights' third-down back that caught the ball.
"I didn't realize he has as good as hands as he does and can pick up protections like he does," Leonard said.
» Ray Lewis is going through a revival after his Fountain of Youth play flooded the Jets defense with some vintage hits dating back to the late '90s on Monday night. That will happen when you're 35 and run around like a high school sophomore, of which his son is.
Lewis has close ties to the Bengals. Head coach Marvin Lewis was his defensive coordinator for the first six seasons of his career, and he's been a mentor for wide receiver Chad Ochocinco. Lewis was one of the guys that got to The Ocho after the 2008 season Ochocinco did everything in his power to get traded.
On Thursday the Baltimore media asked if he was surprised the Bengals haven't tried to "rile him up."
"No. I think Marvin has his team ready to play," Lewis said. "Everybody is talking about the way they played against New England, but the bottom line – if you've been around the business long enough – if you fall for that, you'll fall for anything. They're going to come out and give us their best game, and we know that. [It's] their home opener, [in] the division. They swept us last year in the division, and why wouldn't they try to go do that again? So, we know the importance of this game, and we know they know the importance of this game. So, we're definitely prepared for that."
The most memorable moment of last year's game in Baltimore, next to defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer getting the game ball and Bengals wide receiver Andre Caldwell's winning 20-yard touchdown catch with 22 seconds left, was Lewis keeping the winning drive alive when he got flagged for knocking off The Ocho's helmet.
But Lewis is still counseling Ochocinco even though he's only three years older than The Ocho.
"There (are) certain times I talk to Chad as a true brother. Anything he needs, whether it's something about a game, if he needs a script sheet, if he needs prayer, if he just needs a conversation or even if I just call him and say, 'All right now, you're going too far. Just calm it down a little bit,' '' Lewis said. "There's never a rebuttal; he doesn't fight me. (He says) 'I got you.'
"Then the excitement is always when you see him do it, when you see him change because everybody and all this hoopla about him. I think he just loves the game, and it's the way we grew up playing in the street yard. Nothing has changed from that. Even though you're amongst all these fans and TVs and stuff, he still plays the game and is very loose. So, I've been saying this for years: I don't ever get mad at him, no matter what he does. Let him do what he does, but the bottom line is it's kind of my duty to be a brother to him, to be a big brother to him, and just help him out in any way I can."
Lewis is now old enough to have that high school sophomore, and he's coming off a 504-yard game in Florida. He's got no time for Twitter wars with The Ocho and basically ignores his tweets.
"I don't do any Tweeting now," he said. "I've got kids, I can't do Tweeting."
»With concussions one of the leading NFL topics this week,rookie cornerback Brandon Ghee quietly returned to practice 13 days after getting knocked out for a few moments in the preseason finale in Indianapolis on a scary hit when he came up to make a tackle on fourth-one.
The other concussion the Bengals have suffered this year, another rookie in defensive end Carlos Dunlap, also took about two weeks to be resolved.
Bengals trainer Paul Sparling, who participated in this year's league summit on concussions, says the length of time on the sidelines wasn't impacted by the NFL's point-of-emphasis on the head injury.
"It's purely based on signs and symptoms," Sparling said, "and we followed our usual protocol."
About a decade before the NFL mandated that an independent doctor conduct examinations and that teams gather data for baseline brain activity when each player joins the team, the Bengals decided to do both. When the NFL came out with their recent policy, the Bengals opted to use Cincinnati neurointensivist Lori Shutter along with Tom Sullivan, a Cincinnati neuropsychologist examining Bengals since 1998.
"I didn't think I'd be out that long," Ghee said. "I thought I was just starting to get settled, and now I feel like I'm starting over. I guess it was a little more severe because I got knocked out. It's probably a good thing to take the time. I don't know how many exams I had. Four, five, six, but it was a lot."
Ghee had a concussion that wasn't as severe last year while playing for Wake Forest against Florida State. He left the game after the injury, sat out of contact the next few practices and was able to play the next week.