After destroying the New York Jets 49-9, the jovial but banged up Cincinnati Bengals took a little extra time getting out of uniform and into celebratory street clothes. Some were shuttling themselves between the MRI room and the training room. Others were spending a little longer soaking and icing their latest round of wounds.
Four players left the ballgame with injuries so significant that they didn’t return. It should be noted that some of those extended absences were the product of Cincinnati’s wide halftime lead 28-6. With the game so well in hand and with another so fast approaching, there was no need to risk further injury.
That’s right, believe it or not. The Bengals aren’t done with October yet. They’ll be playing again in three days.
When the Bengals fly down to South Florida on Wednesday for Thursday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins (8:25pm on NFL NETWORK), they could be riding a cloud of uncertainty. Linebacker Rey Maualuga, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive back Taylor Mays and receiver Mohammed Sanu were run from the game with their respective injuries. Maualuga, Whitworth and Mays didn’t play at all in the second half, departing before halftime.
Lewis said during his postgame news conference that he had not been told by trainers that any one of the four would miss Thursday’s game.
“So they all have a shot at playing,” Lewis said.
The Pro Bowl lineman suffered a knee injury near the end of the second quarter. He didn’t say which knee got banged up, but in the offseason, he did have surgery to fix an issue with his left one.
Had Sunday’s game been closer, Whitworth would like to think that he would have been able to stay in and continue playing, but he said he wasn’t so sure he could have really played through the pain.
Also, Mays and Sanu were diagnosed with right shoulder issues.
Maualuga’s injury appeared to be the most serious when it happened. With four minutes left in the second quarter, the linebacker shot through a hole to prevent a first down run by a Jets running back. On the third and one, Maualuga got to Ivory a yard late, colliding with him at the end of the play. A split second after impact was made, Maualuga’s body seemed to go limp, causing trainers to race out to see about him.
After examining him near midfield for about three minutes, he was carted off and a helmet less Maualuga waved to fans to let them know he was OK. Within minutes, it was determined Maualuga had a knee injury and a concussion. According to Lewis, after the game, Maualuga “met us at the door.” Then, smiling, the coach added, “He’ll be fine.”
There will be a lot of attention paid to Maualuga’s concussion symptoms this week. Under the league’s revised concussion protocol, four days doesn’t seem like enough time for a player to be cleared, but Maualuga will have that time to see if he can clear the tests.
Again, the magnitude of concussions are different for different people, but it took defensive end Michael Johnson 13 days to return to full practice after he picked up a concussion in Week 4. It’s worth mentioning that he may have been dealing with his second concussion of the season, after suffering an apparent minor head injury against Pittsburgh Steelers a month ago.
If the Bengals are forced to play without any of their impact players, they feel confident in the depth at those positions. Just like they had to do all this week without cornerback Leon Hall, they will move another player into the potentially spots that need to filled. In Maualuga’s case, that could mean more time for Michael Boley and more added responsibilities for Vontaze Burfict. Mays’ injury likely would mean more action for the trio of Chris Crocker, Dre Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee in the secondary. Andrew Whitworth absence would mean Anthony Collins would mix in at left offensive tackle. If Sanu were to miss this week’s game, the Bengals have the timely fortune of being able to officially activate receiver Andrew Hawkins off the injured reserve list.
Cincinnati’s long depth could be put to the test during this very quick turnaround and we will only see.