Updated: 5:25 p.m.
Defensive tackle Domata Peko felt even friskier Wednesday after his first full practice in nearly six weeks on Tuesday. With the Bengals again making the trip to Wall2Wall in Mason, Ohio for another indoor workout, Peko should impress his teammates again.
"This is the best I've felt since training camp," Peko said before getting on the bus again. "I was running around and guys were saying, 'Look at Peko, fresh legs.' It was cool to give me, (Chris) Crocker, Jumpy (Geathers) and (Cedric) Benson an extra week (off). It will be good to have some fresh bodies out there."
Head coach Marvin Lewis is taking advantage. Every player at his disposal was suited up at the start of Wednesday's practice. And he cut out some segments so that they went about 15 minutes shorter in deference to the short week and the 3 a.m. arrival Monday back at Paul Brown Stadium.
Peko and wide receiver Chad Ochocinco went full go Wednesday with their knees while six others were limited: Safety Chris Crocker (ankle), left end Robert Geathers (knee), safety Tom Nelson (knee), defensive tackle Tank Johnson (foot), running back Larry Johnson (knee), and defensive tackle Shaun Smith (ankle).
Starting middle linebacker David Harris (ankle) was the only Jet that didn't practice Wednesday.
Peko, who had arthroscopic surgery on his knee Dec. 7, has a lot riding on him than most. Never has a game, preseason, regular season or playoff been so easy to predict by so many people:
If the Bengals stop the run and put the ball in the hands of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, they've got a good shot to beat a rookie quarterback who completes just 51 percent of his passes on third down, when he has also thrown six of his 20 interceptions.
It remains to be seen if it happens, but Peko is a huge key in it all.
Regarded as the team's top defensive lineman and voted to a second alternate Pro Bowl berth, Peko has missed the last five games in a stretch the Bengals allowed 134 yards rushing per game. In the previous 11 games they allowed an average of 82, but even though Peko is back the tackle depth has been thinned with the loss of Pat Sims via a broken forearm while Tank Johnson continues to battle a painful case of plantar fasciitis.
Yet Peko reflects an upbeat locker room mood despite the 37-0 pasting the Jets gave them Sunday night with 257 yards rushing. He said the game plan is more extensive than that one, particularly when it comes to defending wide receiver Brad Smith in the Wildcat formation.
"This Saturday is going to be a whole new deal," Peko said. "We didn't show too much last week. We've made some adjustments to defend the Wildcat. We've made a lot of adjustments this week. We've got a lot of new things in our game plan. The Wildcat is definitely a different formation. It takes you back to college ... it's something different. We've got something for it."
Peko is looking forward to a college rematch from his days at Michigan State against former Ohio State center Nick Mangold. Each had their moments in the rivalry, Peko says, and he's embracing going against a Pro Bowler he respects immensely. The Bengals looked like they had never seen a zone blocking scheme before even though the Bengals run plenty of it themselves.
"He's a really good mauler. He's a tough guy. He has good feet. He's like a wrestler," Peko said of Mangold. "He's able to use his hands really well and his body really well. When you think you have him, at one point he uses his hips really good to get you out of your gap. He's a great player, a Pro Bowl guy, he got my respect looking at how he played last week against us ... I'm not going to back down from anybody."
OCHO PAGED: The Ocho tweeted Wednesday morning, "NY Post took my joke a lil serious," after they put one of his off-hand jokes in headlines, but he seemed more upset Tuesday when asked about Jets safety Kerry Rhodes' observation that an early hit could rattle him for the rest of the game. Rhodes delivered a shot early Sunday night after a pass went through Ochocinco's hands while being covered by Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis. It was one of four passes Carson Palmer threw Ochocinco's way on a night he saw he saw his streak of at least one catch in 120 games snapped.
"I'm not sure where Kerry gets that from," he said. "I've been getting smacked all year long. I don't know if he's seen the highlights, but it makes no sense at all."
In a conference call Tuesday with the Cincinnati media, Revis said he's noticed that The Ocho isn't tweeting as much as last week.
"No. I don't miss it. I did tweet early on," Revis said. "Then I stopped, because it looked like a distraction. I'm not the type of dude to let my teammates down by being distracted by somebody else. I am trying to prepare for this big game. By him not tweeting this week, I guess he's trying to focus in more. Chad is a great player. I give him a lot of respect. I always say he's one of the best I have ever watched. I'm not sitting here saying I'm going to shut a guy out. The only thing I can do is cover him the best way I can. That's what I'm going to try to do again on Saturday."
KEY MAN: On the bus ride over to Wall2Wall in Mason, Ohio for practice Tuesday, the defense got to talking how much has changed since defensive back Keiwan Ratliff was last here in September 2007. Ratliff is just one of three guys that has played for all three of Marvin Lewis' defensive coordinators, Leslie Frazier, Chuck Bresnahan and Mike Zimmer. And Ratliff, signed Monday, and Smith, signed last month, just got here.
But it's not only the roster that has changed.
"I can tell you in that defensive meeting room I heard a little bit more verbiage than I've heard in a long time," Ratliff said. "There's a lot of calls, a lot of checks, a lot of things being called. ... This is probably the most complicated defense I've ever been in. It's like cramming for a test you didn't study for."
But this is where Ratliff is the perfect type of guy to pick up in a pinch. He's got a high football intellect, he knows the game and he can play all the spots in the secondary. He's played in the postseason in 2005 with the Bengals and 2007 with the Colts and was in Pittsburgh this year until he was released in late November. With Crocker and Nelson limping, he's getting the bulk of his work at safety.
"We wouldn't have signed him if we didn't think he could come in and play right away if we needed him," Lewis said and laughed about him being added to Zimmer's mix. "He brings some versatility. He's familiar with most of us. He has no idea about Zimmer and that's a good thing. He is a very quick-witted learning guy with football. He would provide a lot of flexibility for us if indeed he would be a guy I would suit up on Saturday."
Ratliff may not be a bad guy to have in the cold, even if he won't be returning punts. In the last PBS game of his rookie year of 2004, Ratliff returned a punt 42 yards with 2:05 left to set up Jon Kitna's four-yard touchdown pass to Ochocinco with 44 seconds left to beat the Giants, 23-22. The game was played the day after Christmas and two days after an icy eight inches of snow submerged the city.
More snow is predicted Thursday, but not until early afternoon and it sounds like the Bengals are going to stay at PBS with their usual morning workout two days before a game and try to beat the storm.
"I never wanted to leave Cincinnati," said Ratliff, a second-round cornerback who went to high school in Columbus, went to college at Florida and now lives in Orlando. "Look at the two corners they have starting. That's not a bad tandem. They drafted them back-to-back (in the first round) and they didn't miss on either one."