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Winston returns with Fisher sidelined for season


Eric Winston is back in the fold after Jake Fisher's season ended.

As if the Bengals' beleaguered offensive line didn't have enough on its plate heading into the second half of the season, it underwent a major change Wednesday when the team ended starting right tackle Jake Fisher's season by putting him on the non-football illness list and re-signed veteran tackle Eric Winston.

It's believed that Fisher is suffering from a medical issue the team anticipates can be addressed during the offseason. He left last Sunday's game in Jacksonville early in the second quarter with what was termed "an illness," and went to the hospital before flying back with the team after the game. Head coach Marvin Lewis didn't elaborate in Monday's news conference.

 "He's (dealt with this) as we've been going through the season. It's something that the doctors are monitoring very closely," Lewis said. "Yesterday they thought they needed to pull him from the game and run some tests, so they took him to the hospital to run tests … "It's not as serious as I would think it is. Yet, it took him out of the game yesterday."

Fisher has been in a rotation with Andre Smith on the right side as the Bengals try to get a foothold on a revamped offensive line that opened the season with a bevy of question marks. With the Bengals ranked last in both NFL offense and rushing and fourth worst in allowing sacks per pass, none have been answered. The struggles at tackle and all along the line were reflected in last Sunday's second sack of quarterback Andy Dalton when both Smith (by Yannick Ngakoue) and left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi (by Calais Campbell) were beaten for the sack.

Fisher started seven of the eight games and logged 361 snaps. Ogbuehi has played 374 snaps on the left side. Smith has 199 snaps and before Fisher left on Sunday had been seeing action on both sides.   

The call to Winston, who turns 34 next week, underlines a variety of issues. After releasing him with the final cuts a few days before the season, they didn't see another tackle they deemed worthy to sign, claim, or acquire in a trade.

With their hopes to continue to develop Fisher, a second-round pick in 2015, dashed for this season, Winston gives them a steadying, veteran influence with three seasons in the system. He's done this before. Since he was signed in the wake of Smith's season-ending arm injury late in the 2014 season, he's played in 33 Bengals games with six starts.

Cincinnati Bengals take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 9 of the regular season.

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