Updated: 1:45 p.m.
For the first time since Boomer Esiason came off the bench to engineer a Bengals victory in 1997, Cincinnati plays the Colts without Peyton Manning as their quarterback. The Bengals have never beaten Manning (0-7), so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
A few months ago Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis advised rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to watch everything Manning did pregame when the Bengals played the Colts in the preseason finale. It never happened, of course, because Manning hasn't played with a neck injury all season.
But it's the thought that counts. It's the same thought Carson Palmer and Chad Ochocinco had several years ago when Palmer and The Ocho famously drove up to Indy for a Monday night game to watch Manning work with his receivers.
"He's a great role model for everybody," Lewis said.
» The Bengals and Lewis were in this winless boat when they lost Palmer for 12 games in 2008 with an elbow injury. They were 0-4 with him and went to 0-8 until backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick led the Bengals on a 4-3-1 finish. As he did before facing Fitzpatrick's Bills two weeks ago, Lewis in his Wednesday news conference took the blame for not adjusting quickly enough to life without Palmer.
"We slapped around and won some games," Lewis said. "Obviously the success of Ryan (showed) he was more capable than people thought he was. That's my fault for not getting us in the right direction with him at the helm."
Lewis says it's not the first time the first two Bengals draft picks have had such an impact during his tenure in the persons of Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green. In 2005 No. 1 pick David Pollack had 4.5 sacks in his conversion to outside linebacker and second-round pick Odell Thurman had five interceptions and four forced fumbles at middle linebacker while leading the team in tackles.
» Lewis had high praise for right tackle Andre Smith. He says he's playing like he did as a rookie when he came back from his first broken foot in 2009 and is providing the impact of that first-round pick.
» Lewis said there are two big reasons for the improved play of the defense. Not only the more consistent pass rush, but also the better pass coverage of all three starting backers.
» He said first-year middle linebacker Rey Maualuga's progress has been helped along by the two-year internship studying under Dhani Jones in the middle. Jones retired Tuesday after not getting picked up this season and Lewis made sure he texted him congratulations on his 12-year career, the last four spent in Cincinnati.
How key was Jones in stabilizing an injury-riddled Bengals defense when he arrived in 2007? In 2009, he became Lewis' first middle linebacker to start back-to-back Opening Days since he took over in 2003. And Lewis says he was a great mentor to young players such as Maualuga and Vincent Rey.
"They followed him around like little chicks," Lewis said.
» Cornerback Adam Jones, eligible to come off the physically unable to perform list next week, says he'll be ready to go Oct. 30 in Seattle, the week after the Bengals bye. That's one year and six days after he last played, when he suffered a herniated neck disc in Atlanta.
"I'll be fuill speed. So I'll either get them or they'll get me," he said before Wednesday's practice.
» Lewis said the Bengals should get back cornerback Kelly Jennings (hamstring) this week after he didn't play in Jacksonville. Jennings was out there Wednesday. Safety Chris Crocker was in a sweatshirt and watching.
» Left tackle Andrew Whitworth is gearing up for another showdown with Colts end Dwight Freeney, the man he calls the best pass rusher in football...Running back Cedric Benson, who still hasn't heard from the NFL regarding his suspension appeal, says he's anxious to atone for Sunday's game in Jacksonville and last year's game in Indy. Against the Colts he had just 24 yards on 14 carries.
» Maualuga said the linebackers and secondary have a bet on who gets the first interception of the season.