Banged-up Bengals will have to heal quick

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
9:15
AM ET
CINCINNATI -- After home games, particularly wins, most Cincinnati Bengals are quick to change and even quicker to dart out the door to see their families and friends as they start unwinding from another physical contest.

There typically isn't much lingering by lockers.

This wasn't the typical Sunday evening.

[+] EnlargeRey Maualuga
Marc Lebryk/USA TODAY SportsBengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga gets a ride off of the field after being injured in the second quarter against the New York Jets.
In the minutes after pummeling the New York Jets 49-9, the jovial but banged-up bunch 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 margin. 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 four days.

"We are going to have to lick our wounds and heal them quick," coach Marvin Lewis said.

When the Bengals fly down to South Florida on Wednesday for Thursday night's game against the Miami Dolphins, they could be riding a cloud of uncertainty. Linebacker Rey Maualuga, offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive back Taylor Mays and receiver Mohamed 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.

While standing near his locker during the postgame interview session, Whitworth told reporters that his knee will be evaluated Monday.

"We'll see where we're at," he added.

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. Both were among the last players still dressed about 45 minutes after the game as they were getting treated.

Maualuga's injury appeared to be the most serious when it happened. With 4:16 left in the second quarter, the linebacker shot through a hole to prevent a first-down run by the Jets' Chris Ivory. On the third-and-1, Maualuga got to Ivory a yard late, colliding with him at the end of a 2-yard run. 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 two weeks prior.

If the Bengals are forced to play without any of the aforementioned 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 vacated spots. In Maualuga's case, that could mean more time for Michael Boley and tweaked responsibilities for Vontaze Burfict. Mays' injury likely would mean more action for the combination of Chris Crocker, Dre Kirkpatrick and Brandon Ghee in the secondary. A 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.

"It's always tough when you have guys that get hurt," center Kyle Cook said. "But you have young guys that can step up."

Cincinnati's long lauded depth could be put to the test during this very quick week that has only just begun.

Coley Harvey

ESPN Cincinnati Bengals reporter

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