Hall, Nelson doubtful for Bengals this Sunday
CINCINNATI – Starting cornerback Leon Hall and starting safety Reggie Nelson did not practice for the third straight day Friday and are unlikely to play Sunday against Cleveland at FirstEnergy Stadium.
Hall and Nelson are officially listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game with hamstring injuries. The Bengals signed veteran safety Chris Crocker this week and have been encouraged by how cornerbacks Brandon Ghee and Dre Kirkpatrick have been able to get back on the practice field but playing without Hall and Nelson would leave a significant hole to fill in their secondary.
Hall had primary coverage against Green Bay slot receiver Randall Cobb last week in Cincinnati’s 34-30 win against the Packers and held Cobb to five catches for 54 yards on 11 targets. Hall also had an interception in the fourth quarter. The Bengals offense responded to the takeaway with a 95-yard touchdown drive that cut Green Bay’s lead to 30-27.
Nelson is Cincinnati’s top safety and has a nose for the football. He’s had one interception this season as well as a fumble recovery and would be a help in coverage as the Bengals attempt to slow down Cleveland tight end Jordan Cameron.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis was non-committal following Friday’s practice about who would and wouldn’t be playing Sunday but all of the signs point to Hall and Nelson being inactive against the Browns. Nelson has played in 51 of 53 games, including playoffs, for the Bengals since being acquired in a trade with Jacksonville in 2010. The two games he missed came last season because of a hamstring injury.
Crocker is expected to be active Sunday and could start alongside second-year player George Iloka. Taylor Mays has been used as a hybrid safety/linebacker role so far, while rookie Shawn Williams, who was drafted in the third round and expected to contest for a starting spot, has played exclusively on special teams through the first three games. Crocker came to the Bengals in the middle of the 2008 season and was a starter for them through the 2011 season. He was not re-signed immediately after that season but rejoined the team after three games last season.
“I think he’s good because I think he was one of the guys who helped set the foundation and the foundation is good. He was able to take Leon and J Joe (Johnathan Joseph) at that point as young players and help them along,” said head coach Marvin Lewis. “It’s good to have that kind of leadership, mentorship. Chris has always been great for Reggie and it’s good to have that kind of mentorship around.
“We weren’t lacking in any leadership, but his ability to be an insurance policy to come in and cover different spots. If called upon he’ll be ready to go, he’ll be up to it.”
When Crocker was re-signed last year he played in a reserve role for the first four games he was back. He started in Week 9 against Denver following the Bengals’ bye week. The 11-year vet played for Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer when the two were in Atlanta in 2007.
“I think it's just about getting out here getting repetitions during the week of practice,” said Crocker. “Just getting in football shape. As far as football shape goes I still need to get into football shape. Mentally I feel really good. Not a whole lot has changed. If it ain't broke don't fix it. That's Zim's motto. It's a system that has been in place for a while so it's easier for a guy like me to not have to re-learn a lot of things.”
Kirkpatrick is also listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury but he returned to practice on Friday in a limited capacity. Ghee has practiced all week. He has missed the first three games this season due to a concussion suffered in training camp. Injuries have been Ghee’s downfall throughout his four-year career.
“He’s done well every opportunity he’s had. Whenever he gets an opportunity to play, hopefully it’ll transfer into winning football during the game,” said Lewis. “I think he’s had a good week of practice. Last week, the time he put in and then came back to be able to do things, he was back involved as much as he could do mentally and this week he was able to go full-go physically, and that’s good.”
Offensive lineman Mike Pollak (knee) is listed as doubtful after practicing on a limited basis Friday. Linebacker James Harrison did not practice Friday due to an illness but is among five players listed as probable for Sunday’s game. Offensive tackle Anthony Collins (knee), Ghee, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (ankle) and cornerback Terence Newman (knee) all had full participation on Friday.