Andy Dalton to see specialist Monday, hopes cast will come off

CINCINNATI -- Andy Dalton is hopeful the cast he has worn around his right thumb the past three weeks will come off when he makes his weekly visit to an area hand specialist Monday.

The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback isn't sure if the cast will indeed come off, but he continues to be given promising news about the progress of the healing.

"They said everything's going in the right direction and everything's healing how it should," Dalton said. "So I'm hopeful that I will soon get out of this."

There still is no indication when Dalton will return from the injury. The hope is that he could be healthy in time for the divisional round of the playoffs at the earliest. If the Bengals host a wild-card round game next week, AJ McCarron likely will continue replacing him. A Bengals victory Sunday over the Baltimore Ravens, along with a Denver loss to the Chargers, would give Cincinnati the AFC's No. 2 seed and a first-round bye.

Dalton has been out of the mix since Week 14 when he broke his thumb while attempting to tackle Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. Dalton had just thrown a first-quarter interception to Tuitt near Pittsburgh's goal line when he dove low to take out the lineman's legs.

In the two complete games the Bengals have been without Dalton, McCarron has gone 1-1, a 24-14 victory at San Francisco two weeks ago and a 20-17 overtime loss Monday night at Denver.

Earlier this week, Dalton began going through conditioning exercises that he believes will help prevent him from being rusty when he is able to officially return.

"I'm still doing stuff as much as I can that will simulate my throwing," Dalton said.

No, he can't hold a football yet, but he has been working on exercises that will keep his shoulder, hips and other muscle groups mechanically sound. Many of the drills mimic those he does in the offseason when he works with throwing coaches Tom House and Adam Dedeaux.

"All the stuff that I do working with Tom and Adam, you're not touching a football for an hour anyway, and then you go out and throw," Dalton said. "There's stuff that you can do where it's not throwing, and you can do things that are essentially working the same muscles and doing the same stuff that help you with throwing."